How would I describe Brighton & Hove Albion’s season so far? In two words – consistently inconsistent. Losing to bottom of the table Coventry one day, and then beating top of the table Southampton the next seems to epitomise our first season back in the Championship.
Games such as that Coventry debacle sum up why we are not yet ready to push for a place in the Premier League. The Sky Blues were there for the taking, but a totally inept Albion performance resulted in a great opportunity to push for the top six going to waste.
Forty-eight hours later, things could not have been more different. Local rivals Southampton rolled into town and, if I’m being completely honest, I thought we’d get stuffed. How wrong could I be?
The Saints were well and truly beaten into the dirt as we romped to a stunning 3-0 victory. Jake Forster-Caskey was the star of the show and scorer of the opener – it is only a matter of time before the big boys start chasing the 17-year-old if his recent performances are anything to go by.
That superb win had the whole club on a high ahead of the FA Cup visit of Conference leaders Wrexham. The Albion have a bit of recent history when it comes to cup ties against non-league opposition, having been taken to replays by Woking and FC United of Manchester last season. This was to be no exception.
I have to give Wrexham a lot of credit. Their fans were fantastic – taking over 2,000 fans all the way down here is a brilliant effort, and the noise they made was better than any away following at the Amex so far.
On the pitch, they deserved their chance to take us back to North Wales. Gus Poyet’s decision to rest most of the first team backfired, and has left us with a tricky task on Wednesday night.
That’s not to say that some of the youngsters wouldn’t have been playing anyway. The number of injuries and suspensions that we have had in recent weeks has been truly staggering, and has stretched the squad to the limit.
It has been well documented that our disciplinary record is the worst in the Championship, so maybe this is influencing referees when they make their decisions on the pitch – who knows….
Some referees we have had this season have been abysmal. First, there was Peter Walton’s display in the away game against Southampton, but even that performance was blown out of the water by what happened against Burnley just before Christmas.
Craig Pawson was the referee that afternoon, and is a name I will not forget for a long time. Albion found themselves reduced to nine men after just 12 minutes following two highly questionable decisions.
Firstly, Romain Vincelot was dismissed for an off the ball incident. I must confess that I didn’t see the incident, nor was it picked up on camera, but those who did see it have said it was an extremely harsh decision.
If that was bad, what happened seven minutes later when Ashley Barnes joined Vincelot in the changing room was staggering. Barnes was the victim of a two footed lunge from Chris McCann, which he successfully managed to hurdle. In doing so, he landed on the Burnley man, which Pawson somehow saw as a deliberate stamp. The official duly sent Barnes off instead of McCann, and nearly sparked riots in the home stands.
The remaining nine could, and maybe should, have still rescued something from the wreckage, but eventually slipped to a 1-0 defeat.
If the players show that much heart in every game, 2011/12 could still be a season to remember. If we beat Wrexham in the Cup replay, Newcastle United will be next, and who knows who could follow after that. There is also the small matter of a trip to Selhurst Park at the end of the month as well, where revenge will be on the menu after Crystal Palace’s win at the Amex back in September.
Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger