The last time I watched Brighton play was the season I fell out of love with football. The Gifted Mr Noel Williams’ second and final goal for Brighton was followed by the first and, even now, penultimate career goal by Joel Lynch. Also in Brighton’s side that day was chancer supreme Colin Kazim Richards, while Ipswich were at their lowest ebb since some point in the 1950s thanks to overspending by George Burley and the inability of Joe Royle to fashion a half decent side once the Premier League squad had all finally left.
Despite the win Brighton still went down – in fact my hazy memory wonders if they actually got relegated that day despite winning – they finished about 12 points from safety. Just four years on only Gary Hart and Adam El Abd remain from that Brighton side while Ipswich’s team have all moved on. Football was even then a different world. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I wasn’t the only one not enjoying that day. Shane Supple was hating it. Such was the Ipswich ‘keeper’s disillusionment with football that he walked away from it, back to Ireland, to a stint in Gaelic football and a possible career as a chef.
Afterwards, I went off to see Interpol at the Brixton Academy and have only sporadically returned to Portman Road since. But I’ve actually been looking forward to this Woking .v. Brighton game. I’m looking forward to seeing how League 1 leaders Brighton are playing under Gus Poyet and, more importantly, his assistant and former Ipswich Town cult hero, Mauricio Taricco.
Two years prior to the above game and 27 minutes into his West Ham debut, ‘Treacle’ got a bad injury in a league match against Millwall. Rather than linger and leech the millions due in his contract, he offered to cancel it and quit football in a gesture of good will and honesty you’re unlikely to see ever again from a footballer. Six years later, Little Mo is registered as an emergency player and, tonight, possibly for one game only, as a special treat to me, he dons his boots for one last hurrah! Oh my!
First thing to note is that Woking bars don’t do ‘forward planning’ or ‘research’. They just have a stunned look of surprise on their faces as 100 football fans descend on their pub on the night of Woking’s biggest game in years. Durrh.
Second thing to note is that if you’re going to build a massive stand that seats 3000 people, it might be wise to have more than 1 snack hatch and a few more staff on to cope.
And a third thing, the FA really do need to bring back terracing and I’ll tell you why. Today’s student bladders are, seemingly, so retarded that they can’t last for more than 15 minutes. If you’re on a terrace, said man-bagged student just passes easily through a crowd and nips off up the aisle. If you’re in a row of seats and student needs to do the same, the 20 people who have to get up, allow him to squeeze through and then sit back down again 6 times every half … well, it’s FUCKING ANNOYING.
Obviously we could choose to tell the students to do one but that would be a) uncharitable, b) misunderstanding of the necessity for beer in football and c) against the need for terracing to return to football. We’ve been spoilt with all the terracing we’ve encountered over the last three months and we can’t bear seats.
Actually, there is a fourth thing. It’s a game of football and Brighton are playing. That must mean we’ll hear songs of a homophobic or homosceptic nature based upon the perceived sexual ambivalence associated with the town’s population? Oh yes. Even in this week of several articles about homophobia in football? You bet your sweet arse. Will there be a tannoy announcement where club execs wag a nominal finger of warning to those intending to phobe it up? For sure. Will the crowd take no notice? Errr … yes. But stewards and police will single out the perpetrators and dish out the promised arrests? Right? Err … well, we’re not sure, we’ll find out later …
Like some sort of massive European tie, the ground was very busy and two flares lit up the fog/smoke enshrouded ground, one in Woking’s passionate Kingfield Road end, the other thrown out of the Brighton fans in the side stand. The killjoys moved in to extinguish the continental devices and root out the perpetrators. Bastards. The Brighton team ambled around before kick off almost unnoticed and when the game kicked off they snuck up behind Woking, grabbed them round the throat and gave a massive great slice with a huge knife. Out of the blocks with menace, practically playing 2-4-4, they clearly wanted a quick kill. Sadly for them, the knife turned out to be a theatre prop and only left some ketchup on the otherwise unharmed neck of the Cards.
As the game settled down the historically coiffed Taricco moved gradually back from his advanced wing back role to a more traditional full back one. Woking gradually got a foothold in midfield, largely thanks to Mark Ricketts. The rest of the half was engaging in the kind of voyeuristic way you’d watch a sparring session between ear-biting-era Mike Tyson and unfunny funnyman Patrick Kielty but it was largely unremarkable and did little to hint at what was to come.
After an unsuccessful Woking counter attack they themselves got caught on the break, the sage behind us pre-empted what he thought an inevitable goal with a weary “one nil”. “Is it?” asked his six year old son … “errr, no …” replied his dad, tailing off rather than make the effort to explain inevitability or defeatism. As they did on so many occasions, Brighton failed with both the final ball and the subsequent finish.
“We can see you holding hands” sung a guy, gratifyingly solitarily. Sigh. Some moments later the lino takes a tumble under pressure from a Brighton midfielder. Hoho, damn no photo, hope ESPN got it.
Brighton are quite a pretty team to watch. Not content with a singular mode of attack, they sometimes try to get players to the by-line, they occasionally congested the central area and made lovely triangles, flicked balls round the corner of defenders and dinked balls over the top for a nippy forward. Quite refreshing really, even if the final ball or finish was very much lacking.
But we really wanted some fish and chips. Any ground that has its own chippy under the stand gets my vote. If only it wasn’t accessible tonight only via a three mile queue. I knew it would be futile and Brighton’s forwards were now slashing efforts wide with equal frustration. “Top of the League, You’re Having A Laugh” the Woking element judgementally sneered.
Little Mo put in a good shift. I was proud, like I haven’t been proud of an (ex) Ipswich player for some time. As good with both feet as he always was, tenacious as ever but surprisingly reserved and not getting involved. To be fair, the match simply wasn’t that kind of match anyway but no verbals, scythes or wild gesticulating from my little dynamo!! 0-0 was probably fair, Brighton had had more threatening spells and possession but the counter attacking chances had fallen more to Woking. Tie poised.
Like a Mississippi steamboat the main stand(s) at Kingfield has a big old steaming stack and two shallow little stand units that, from an angle, look like a man with a very disappointed and heavy-lidded frown. That frown must, generally, have been aimed at the pedantic ref. A stickler of a whistler was he. And, in the second half, he took stickler-ish whistlery to a level that would have made the most officious civil servant blanche with embarrassment.
The only other explanation was that he didn’t want to be a ref anymore and thought he’d humiliate himself live in front of literally dozens, and Ray Stubbs, on a specialist satellite channel. It’s the only reason I can think of why he would book three players for taking free kicks either in the wrong place, or before he’d blown the whistle. Yes, that’s right, ‘booked’, not ‘had a word with’ or ‘reprimanded’ or ‘given a second chance to’ but BOOKED, immediately. In modern parlance, WTF!?
The game was now starting to get stretched and it was end to end stuff. For Woking, Elvis Hammond was STILL managing to turn both centre backs due to them being too close when he got the ball into feet with his back to goal. For Brighton, the little flicks round the corner and cheeky dinks over the top were starting to find a player. Murray and Bennett went close before a left sided cross from Taricco was knocked down to Sparrow who took a touch before burying the game’s first goal.
1-0 Seagulls and their fans finally woke up. It was as if the flare they set off pre-match contained sleeping gas and after an hour it had finally worn off. The tannoy sprung to life to reveal the score and scorer before issuing the stern warning to fans that homophobic chanting would result in ejection and arrest. Three quarters of the stadium audibly laughed. Some of it was ironic chuckle, like what we did, some of it was with the knowldge that there would be no ejections and even fewer arrests.
Brighton fans were now ‘Ole’-ing every pass as if the goal was the first action of the game and Brighton hadn’t lost possession since. Most odd. A bit of head tennis in the Brighton box, both sides involved, elicited a plea of “STOP DOING HEADERS” from the aforementioned six year old. On the back of our necks we felt the air moved by the despairing shake of his dad’s head. ‘Fella, I think your son is trying to tell you that he doesn’t want to come here anymore’, we both thought. Sad but true, this child longed for the skillz ov Rooney and the comfort of Premier League. His dad won’t change that and dad knows it.
Woking were now starting to add possession and invention to their previously myopic attacking method of breaking out of defence at speed. Quarm blazed wide with one of Woking’s best chances so far. Brighton’s reserve keeper Breznhev pulled another goal kick wide and ten yards shy of the half way line. His kicking was woeful. It’s a still night. He simply can’t kick. He is shanking relentlessly like a Russian sheep farmer.
For the twelftyieth time of the evening Elvis Hammond turned and slithered round one of two Sherman tanks in the Brighton backline, burst to the byline, wriggled twixxxt two more defenders and pushed the ball across goal where Gordon Greer turned it into his own net. A cracking goal but WHY OH WHY did those two experienced professional defenders not drop two yards off Hammond when the ball was heading in to his feet??? All he does is turn! The turn is tight and slithery and well executed but just step back and his one missile is defused! Blimey, even I can see that and I am not employed by Zonal Marking.
“We’re Going To Wemberlee” sang the faithful and in true FA Cup fashion the boot now transferred feet, tails were up and kitchen units were being hurled goalwards. Ademola was now starting to get the odd sniff of daylight past the tiring Argentine but his crossing was erratic and too deep. On the other side Aswad (this is not a weak joke about not turning around, his parents really did name him after Brinsley and the boys) Thomas was getting joy too. The crowd was announced as 4193 and 3400 of them were now enjoying the best 15 minutes of Woking pressure all game. Brighton got complacent in central areas and the Cards midfield got to everything first. Hammond fired past the post and several Aswad crosses turned the Brighton defence around but didn’t find a team mate.
Brighton got away with it and that was full time. It’s difficult to describe extra time, it would take far too long and would be breathless. It was end to end, there were chances galore and horrendous shooting but as the half drew to a close the two Brighton centre backs seemed to finally get wise to Hammond’s turns and, all of a sudden Woking’s attack was looking less potent.
But Brighton had left one pebble unturned and, from a Woking corner, Ola Sogbanmu was completely unmarked on the penalty spot and nodded the ball past Breznhev and wrote himself in to FA Cup folklore with the Giant Killing goal that would fell the mighty Brighton & Hove Albion! 2-1. Two minutes later, as Glenn Murray chested the ball down in the box, the “You’re not singing any …” song was cut short as Bennett pounced and steered the ball into the corner of Woking’s net. Doh!
Woking 2-2 Brighton
Just before time was called on the half the ref booked Taricco for an innocuous looking challenge near the centre circle. The previously dormant volcano of Latin temperament suddenly erupted. No idea what he said but the gesticulations came out and he maybe questioned the referees eyesight or parentage. Even if it was just a sulk, don’t forget he’s an experienced former Premier League defender and the ref had already booked three people for the heinous charge of taking a free kick. In the words of Jim Diamond, he should’ve known better and Little Mo’s evening ended after 106 minutes. Ouch.
You wouldn’t have guessed Brighton were a man down as the game’s final quarter concluded with both sides swapping turns at providing a fifth and decisive goal, which never really looked like materialising despite many oohs and aaahs.
What followed was our second weird penalty shoot out in a month. The previous one had seen the first five penalties scored and the last five missed or saved. This time we saw Woking miss every single penalty they took and Brighton won 3-0 in about 2 minutes. During a REAL FA Cup period in which we haven’t been too blessed with great games, this was probably the highlight of the FA Cup season so far. I got home at midnight and had some wafer thin slices of Sunday’s meltingly leftover belly pork, nom. 2000 words and I didn’t even mention Tim Buz…..
We were in the BIG end and couldn’t always hear what was going on at the other end but have since heard from a couple of people who were in the rowdy end and said there were a few unpleasant homophobic songs and several people were ejected, one in particular odious man may even have been arrested.
ps: The keeper wasn’t actually called Breznhev.