As it turned out the rain abated and despite large puddles and rivulets all over the place on the streets the pitch turned out to be in good condition. Modern drainage can cope with previously fatal amounts of rain although there must be a limit.
There were two changes to the AFCB team; Pugh replaced Fraser and McQuoid dropped out of the squad with the now suspension free (but for how long?!) Arter coming in. This meant a more rigid defensive 4 1 4 1 formation as opposed to the flexible options possible against Ipswich.
Albion started off on top and it wasn’t long before a long range shot by Crofts squirmed through Camp who fortunately deflected it just enough onto the inside of the post and the power took the ball clear. We then started to play a bit and went ahead in controversial circumstances. Arter changed forward and fed Pugh on the edge of the box who took on Calderon for the bye-line and drew a challenge from the defender which brought Marc down and a penalty was awarded. Calderon did play the ball but having studied the highlights several times he did make substantial contact with Pugh slightly beforehand. Brighton fans will vehemently claim that that is what happens with tackles but I can see why it was given. Eddie stated after the match that he thought that the referee, Simon Hooper, had made an error and in my opinion Mr Hooper gave the decision because the angle from which he viewed the incident resulted in him not seeing Calderon’s contact as being as significant as it was. Whatever, Grabban swept the penalty in with aplomb.
Brighton now piled forward feeling aggrieved. Camp made three good saves which increased in brilliance. A powerful shot by Ulloa was virtually straight at him but strong hands made sure that the ball went out for a corner. Than Lua-Lua shot from distance with power and Lee got down well to turn it out for a corner, I heard the thud of his glove on the ball above the din of the crowd. The best of all was from Ulloa again who was set up by a good crossfield ball which Francis could not deal with leaving a one on one about ten yards out. Camp charged at Ulloa and spread himself to deflect it over the bar. This save obviously pleased him the most as he stood in the middle of the box and made a double fisted celebration whilst Elphick and Daniels instinctively applauded.
There were other efforts that were blocked, easily saved or sent wide but it was not all one way and we had a certain penalty turned down when Surman was barged off the ball. Mr Hooper was probably evening things up having realised his earlier mistake something that refs should not really do. Oh and Arter was booked as usual but for a foul and not over use of his gob.
One up at half-time was possibly fortunate but I never felt that we were seriously threated by Albion despite Camp’s heroics.
The second half resumed the Brighton pressure but we did make a number of breaks and looked dangerous. Richie and Grabban both had several attempts blocked or wide whilst Fraser (who replaced Ritchie) also had a shot blocked as did Francis from a free-kick. Camp made a further great save when he somehow blocked a Barnes header from point-blank range. Lua-Lua also hit the bar with another long range shot. Many of our breaks resulted in cynical fouls from Brighton players who obviously did not enjoy being run at. This resulted in bookings for El-Abd and Bridcutt. Then the heartbreak occurred in the 88th minute. A crossfield ball caused chaos and we were not able to clear the ball before a second and short cross was headed in by Ward (Brighton’s Stephen not Elliott). There was still time for Barnes to loop a header onto the top of our crossbar and for Daniels to bomb forward (again) and have his shot blocked.
This was the second good match in a row in which we have been involved. Whereas the Ipswich match saw us with more of the play this was a case of absorbing the pressure and breaking with pace and menace. This may sound strange after Brighton had hit the woodwork three times and Camp making many good saves but I never really felt that threatened by them as I have already stated. It may be that their style of play is rather understated or they just lack a bit of pazazz. They have defensive weakness in their lack of pace at the back causing the mentioned cynical fouls and for this reason in particular I cannot see them making the play-offs.
Man of the match really is as straightforward as it would appear. No one had a bad match, although Ritchie looked a bit jaded, but Lee Camp was outstanding and his display must rank with some of the great AFCB keeping performances such as Mark Ovendale at Wolves and Jimmy Glass against Bristol City.
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Elphick, Ward, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, O'Kane, Pugh, Grabban
Subs: Allsop, Harte, Addison, MacDonald, Rantie, Fraser (for Ritchie, 71 mins), Pitman (for Grabban, 82 mins)
Phil Nesbitt, Cockfosters