Well, it had to go wrong sometime. After spending eight consecutive months at the top of League One last season, and starting this season in much the same style, everyone at Brighton & Hove Albion have finally had to take a reality check.
Defeat at Leicester four weeks ago was disappointing – any defeat is of course – but realistically there aren’t many teams that are going to get anything at the King Power Stadium this season. Things could have been very different had Craig Mackail-Smith not missed a complete sitter during the second half, but he more than made up for his error in Brighton’s next league game against Leeds United.
Two-nil down at half time, and with the team being booed off the pitch (those who did boo really need to remember that just over two years ago the team were playing in the worst stadium in the Football League and on the verge of dropping into League Two), it looked like we were going to lose two games in a week for the first time in as long as most fans can remember.
That was until CMS decided he was going to pay back a large chunk of his £2.5 million transfer fee. First, a superb turn and shot halved the arrears; he then won the penalty from which Ashley Barnes equalised, before scoring his second of the night to complete a stunning turnaround.
Ross McCormack’s stoppage time goal for Leeds meant we couldn’t quite hang on for a stunning win, but we’d have certainly taken a point at half time!
Forty-eight hours earlier, glamourous Liverpool was in town. I am never more popular than when high profile games like these come along, as everyone I have ever met suddenly wants me to get them tickets. Those who were lucky enough to get in might have wondered why they bothered after a poor first half Albion performance, which saw us extremely fortunate to go in just one goal behind.
The second half was a different story altogether. We more than matched the five time European Cup winners – in fact, we were better than them. Forget Gerrard, Suarez and Carragher, we had Bridcutt, Barnes and Greer!
It was unfortunate that we conceded a second late on as Gus Poyet went more and more attacking, but at least we got the goal we deserved when Ashley Barnes converted an injury time penalty. It was the very least we warranted.
The third of three home games in seven hectic days came the following Tuesday, and this was the biggest of them all. Arch-rivals Crystal Palace was in town, and this meeting had even more spice than usual. Not only was it the first meeting between the sides in six years, but it also marked the return of a certain Glenn Murray.
Murray, it is worth remembering, is a player that I was far from complimentary about back in the summer, when he rejected Albion’s new contract offer, and then pitched up in south London for what appears to be purely financial reasons.
All seemed to be going to plan early on – CMS paid back a bit more of his record fee by giving us an early lead, and despite heavy pressure as the game wore on, we were still in front with ten minutes to go.
Then, it all went horribly, horribly wrong. Wilfried Zaha got the equaliser that Palace’s pressure deserved, before Darren Ambrose delivered the sucker punch with just one minute left on the clock.
That wasn’t it though. With the Amex’s home ends rapidly emptying, Mr Murray decided to rub salt into very open wounds by adding a third. You’ve probably figured by now that Glenn isn’t going to be on my Christmas card anytime soon, but I will give the guy some credit where it’s due. First of all, the goal was a peach – right into the corner from 25 yards out. Secondly, his lack of celebration was very sensible – an Adebayor-esque reaction could have started a riot, but instead he just trotted back into his own half. Fair play.
The chance to repair those wounds came at Ipswich four days later. On a scorching afternoon, we were more than holding our own until Vicente produced a moment of magic to give us the lead. The run from inside his own half was brilliant, but to then turn Jimmy Bullard inside out and curl the ball into the corner from 25 yards as well – that is special.
I dared to think that the sticky patch might have been coming to end. It hadn’t. Minutes later, we were pegged back. Before we knew it, we were behind and the player’s confidence was visibly shot to pieces. For the third game in a row we had taken the lead, and for the third time we had blown it.
Despite all the doom and gloom of the last month, the table still reads well. We’re in fifth ahead of Saturday evening’s visit of Hull City, and that can’t be bad for a team that has just been promoted. Five games without a win is alarming though, and it will be interesting how Poyet deals with the slump. A couple of wins against Hull and Millwall are surely a must, ahead of two tough looking games against West Ham United and Birmingham City in late October.
Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger