Brighton And Hove Albion vs. Chelsea : 18 January 2022.
Virtually at the end of the uploading process for the Manchester City blog, I reached an impasse. I had, all of a sudden, and with no hint nor warning, simply run out of storage space. Well, this was no bloody good. This was no bloody good at all. Was that it then? A run of over six-hundred and forty match reports to come to an abrupt end? No, not a chance of it. I quickly stumped up for the next bundle of space available, uploaded the last six photographs and kept on blogging.
This new plan will cost me £15 per month, plus there is an annual registration cost too. But it keeps me occupied, it keeps me focussed. I clearly get a deal of pleasure out of it all. With more photographs being published these days, the number of views has increased exponentially. Yet the number of visitors per year has stayed remarkably similar; at around the 11,000 mark, all of the way through from 2014 to the 2021 apart from the natural dip in numbers in 2020. I like it that even during the long fallow days of summer, there has always been at least one visit per day.
Bugger it, that has tempted fate, eh?
Manchester City on the Saturday was followed by Brighton on the Tuesday evening; another away game, another game to test our players’ resolve and us fans’ sanity.
This was going to be yet another long, long day. I was up at 4.45am in order to work an early 6am to 2pm shift. I drove back to Frome for just after 2.30pm where PD was waiting with Parky and Si for lift-off. It was already a bitterly cold day and I expected the temperature to drop further. For once, I had brought along a bobble hat and gloves. I usually avoid both, even on the coldest of days.
Gloves make the operating of my camera a ridiculous task.
And a bobble hat makes me look like a twat.
I posted on Facebook :
“Brr-brr-brr-Brighton, here we come.”
PD set off and the predicted travel time was around three hours to the little town of Lewes where we would then catch a train to Falmer. As we drove east in our little bubble of warmth, there was chat from Simon about Abu Dhabi. Simon has visited there a few times. He likes it. Both PD and I were to hear that maybe not all of our preconceptions of a frugal way of life on our visit might be correct. Some notions were to be in for a few re-evaluations. This was undoubtedly very reassuring to hear.
PD made as good a time as possible but there was the inevitable traffic as we hit a few blackspots. On the last few miles, a full moon appeared on the horizon, as if rolling along the ridge of the downs to the north of Brighton. At just past 5.30pm, we drove past the stadium. We were parked up at Lewes at around 5.45pm. Outside, the temperature had dropped several degrees. The Lansdowne Arms on the corner appeared to be overflowing with clientele, so we headed back to a boozer – “Fuego Bar” – that we had seen on the slow drive through the town’s narrow streets.
This was a rare treat for me, an away drink. I ordered pints of “Estrella” and we relaxed for an hour.
I soon made my mind up on the walk back to the car to don extra garments; twat or not, I needed that Boca Juniors bobble-cap. The gloves could wait. Just as we entered the train station, Clive – “Sleepy Hollow” – arrived just behind us.
Despite the first train not stopping due to having reached capacity, we dutifully waited an extra ten minutes or so for the next one. We pulled in to Falmer at around 7.30pm. There was an almighty scramble at the away gate and there was no time for stewards to bother with anything as frivolous as proof of COVID19 vaccination.
As with the last visit, on New Year’s Day 2020, I was tucked into one of the front rows behind the goal. In that game, our early goal was undone by an outrageous overhead kick which came from a late corner. For all of their nibbles against us, we are yet to lose to Brighton & Hove Albion in the league.
Before I knew it, the teams appeared to our left. Chelsea in yellow / black / yellow once again.
Our team, as follows :
Dave – Thiago – Rudi – Marcos
Mase – Jorgi – Kova – Hakim
Romelu – Callum
I was to later learn that this was a 4-2-2-2 but I was oblivious at the time.
As is always the case, we attacked the other end in the first-half.
There was a rather slow start to the game, with only their diminutive winger Tariq Lamptey really catching the eye. On several occasions, he danced away from his marker and I wondered how we could cope with his pace. Brighton would not let us settle. Out players, seemingly still suffering from the City game, and the build-up of other games too, appeared lethargic, and altogether unable to free themselves of the home team’s attentions.
A delicate touch from Danny Welbeck set up Jakub Moder and I thought “goal” but the Polish player screwed it wide.
At last there was the hint of richer pastures when Lukaku set up a shot for Azpilicueta that Sanchez was able to save.
Brighton’s front three just seemed a lot more agile and energised than our counterparts.
The Chelsea crowd were relatively subdued after the opening salvos were fired.
“You can stuff your fuckin’ seagulls up yer arse.”
I spotted one little passage of play that got me purring in remembrance of another coastal city whose home team play in blue and white stripes. The ball was in our half, ten yards inside the touchline with space suddenly opening up ahead. Yet unlike in Porto in May, there was no Mason Mount to spot the run of Timo Werner, and of course there was no Timo Werner. In fact there was nobody at all. And there was simply nobody ready to exploit all of that lovely space.
I muttered an oath to myself.
The home terraces bellowed :
“Champions of Europe. You’re ‘avin a laugh.”
Just before the half-hour mark, in the far corner, Kante set up Ziyech.
I yelled out :
“Hit the fucking thing.”
With hardly any backswing, he let fly and the ball, to all of our surprise, flew into the goal at the near post.
Watching through the netting of the near goal, the celebrations certainly looked rather muted.
“What’s up hon?”
Anyway, bollocks to that, we were celebrating wildly.
Another assist for me.
This goal didn’t fool anyone though. This had been rather poor fare. The one exception, as always, was the indomitable Kante. However, after being left stranded on the ball on more than one occasion, with no players showing, Alan was moved to comment “Robinson Crusoe’s got more mates.”
At the break, time for a little wander and some photos. Nice to see Andy, a Chelsea fan from Brighton, who I used to hang around with in The Black Bull in 1988/89. I think the last time I saw him was the Villa Park semi-final in 1996.
Soon, very soon, into the second-half Welbeck really should have done a lot better after being slotted in at an angle, but his shot was forever sliced wide. Towards the hour, we were playing some soporific stuff and the home team grew stronger still. A flowing move down their left then set up Mac Allister but his shot was deflected. However, Kepa readjusted ever so well to parry past the post.
From the corner, Mac Allister struck a firm cross in and Adam Webster – “after you Claude” – headed the ball powerfully past what seemed like the entire Chelsea defence.”
Dear reader, I will be honest. My feet were freezing. My face was freezing. I knew that I was in for a long wait to get back onto a train, any train, for Lewes, and I knew that I would not be home until late, very late. I was so disenchanted with our lacklustre performance that even after realising that only sixty-five minutes had elapsed, I just wanted the game to end. And I can honestly say that I have never ever felt that at a game, with such a long time still to go, ever before. I am not proud to admit that. Of course I am not.
The night grew colder.
“Ice cold in Amex.”
I just wanted to go home.
The sky was clear but this was a very unclear night in West Sussex. Nothing really made sense. Most of our players had been woeful; maybe apart for King Kante, Kepa the ‘keeper and the high-spirited Dave, who at least looked like he cared.
Why were the three substitutions so late? Not a clue.
Havertz for Lukaku.
Kovacic for Jorginho.
Werner for Hudson-Odoi.
There were boos as Lukaku was replaced. He had done nothing, his body language poor, but his service had been worse.
We did have a little sting in our tail with Werner looking half-decent, but by then I just wanted out. A horrific finish by Kovacoc, blazed way over, summed it all up.
Not good enough, Chelsea.
We hung around a little in the concourse to let the crowds subside a little. In the toilets, Chelsea were mouthing off at Chelsea. It was all rather churlish and childish.
“It’s the tactics” grunted one chap.
“I like the green ones” replied Parky and a tense moment was rendered obsolete as folk laughed.
We waited. One last drink for a few. At Falmer station, thankfully some stewards quickly spotted Parky’s stick and PD’s limp; we were escorted quickly to the platform ahead of the others, thus probably saving us an extra forty-five-minute wait.
We returned to Lewes at 10.45pm, but were then soon hit with extra delays on the A27. We were forced back north through rural West Sussex and as I tried to sleep with my head against the car window, PD eventually drove home via the M23, the M25, the M3 and the A303. I eventually got to sleep on my sofa at 2.45am; I couldn’t even be arsed to go upstairs.
04.45am to 02.45am.
I had had my fill.
Sadly, I must have picked up a bug somewhere on that night out in Brighton. For a few days, I was unable to do anything much. And It meant that I was just unable to attend the Tottenham home game.
Pete, Alan, PD, Andy, Chris, Parky, Walnuts & Andy.