With last week’s result at Bournemouth (another addition to the list of bogey-grounds) finally confirming the inevitable it was difficult to guess what sort of turnout to expect today from the City Ground faithful, especially following the announcement in mid-week of the game being televised, no doubt for the world to see a team still within a shout of the play-offs achieve their objective at the expense of a spent, broken, battered and disintegrating team whose own prospects were literally tossed out of the window by the trail of events that has hit us this year.
Needless to say all the programme talk preferred to look towards the future and the arrival of Stuart Pearce to bring renewed hope to this club. Understandable enough, but no-one’s going to go away and think for one minute that they are going to forget what’s happened here this season.
I wish Fawaz (and Stuart Pearce when he arrives) the best of luck for what will be such an important summer and pre-season for the club as it tries to put the savage disappointment of this season behind it and re-build for the future. The fans’ expectation has never been higher, and the club owes it to us to make sure that the promotion so craved for fifteen long years finally comes to fruition next time round.
A review of the season will hopefully follow, but in the meantime here is how the closing day looked from a fan’s viewpoint. Read it and weep.
The Championship, Saturday 3rd May 2014, kick-off 1215hrs|
Nottingham Forest 1 – 2 Brighton & Hove Albion
|Venue||The City Ground|
Glorious, if a little cool in the shade
Similar to last season – noisy and with massive expectation. There was a true carnival atmosphere in their corner of the ground, as you’d expect.
Kick-off was a minute late, though I still don’t know why these final-day fixtures couldn’t start at least an hour later.
Three more minutes and it was all over, and the Brighton fans erupted once more, creating the scenes we’ve become all too used to in the final chapter of the season: Leicester last year and Blackpool three years before that and today with Brighton. I don’t begrudge them of their moment of triumph one little bit, but I felt so let down by Forest’s total lack of application. The rallying cry to end the season on a high seemed little more than lip-service and I along with countless others left before the final parade in a totally disgruntled state not felt since that awful day nine years ago when the season ended with us contemplating life in League One. The sun was shining, but as a lengthy journey home beckoned my mood was far from sunny at the thought of how a season that showed so much promise has degenerated in such spectacular fashion in a manner you envisaged only happened to other clubs. I hope one day soon it will once again be us experiencing that feeling of sheer jubilation those Brighton fans were enjoying today at the final whistle, but right now that looks like a pipe dream.|
Meanwhile, word had got round of Reading and The Dingles now level and The Seagulls sensed it was now their time as they piled on the pressure with LuaLua going close twice with long-range efforts from the left. The breakthrough came in a manner which summed up our season perfectly. They caught us on the break as Mackail-Smith exploited the inability of out-of-position Mackie (hope we never have to see him at right-back again) to stem the pressure before turning to plant an inch-perfect cross. Back for us was Harding and Collins doing a ridiculously futile impersonation of the Angel Of The North before letting the ball sail past to find the head of – you guessed it – Ulloa, who had the easiest of jobs heading home from five yards. It was the second minute of stoppage time and right in front of their fans who simply blew the roof off. You had to hand it to them, though the moment was marred by the totally irresponsible running onto the pitch by Andrea Orlandi from the Brighton bench. He had already been substituted midway through the second half, but this didn’t stop referee Keith Stroud from booking him – something he might well think about if he ends up with a suspension.
The rest of the game was as predictable as an audition for Britain’s Got Talent. Forest’s counter-attacks were as bad as I’ve ever seen them, exemplified by one such episode where we got clear down the right, but with no-one in support for at least a hundred miles (COX, WHERE WERE YOU????) Brighton were afforded a whole afternoon to fall back to defend in numbers as we simply stopped with nowhere to go.
Just about summed up our season. Forest were the better team in the early stages, not really because we were playing well (contrary to Radio Nottingham commentary) but because the sheer weight of expectation was causing Brighton to make mistakes which Forest eventually punished after 22 minutes when Vaughan’s cross leading to Matt Derbyshire’s tame header was fumbled by Seagulls’ keeper Tomasz Kuzczak in bizarre fashion. We’ve seen them happen often enough at both ends of the field so I’ll take one of those any day. Brighton had had their moments although the ever-dangerous Ulloa got increasingly frustrated having missed a great chance from close range and a goal disallowed. Needless to say they woke up after the break after news was obviously re-laid that the Reading-Burnley game was on a knife-edge. Inevitably our failure to grab a second before HT was to bring an all-too-familiar pattern – in today’s case only eight minutes into the second half when failure to clear a corner properly allowed Stephen Ward to thump an cracking half-volley past de Vries to wake their frustrated fans up. No doubt this was the turning point as they proceeded to up the tempo whilst Brazil tinkered with the players at his disposal including the late entry of the newly-shaven Greening (cue chants of ‘You’re not Jesus anymore’). The introduction of young Rees with 15 to go seemed as good a time as any to introduce another of the youngsters, though of course we were effectively down to ten men by this time after Tudgay had been replaced by Cox who managed his usual routine of going missing somewhere deep in midfield – he’s a striker for pity’s sake! Is it any wonder we’ve seen zero goal-punch from him for over three months?
|Highlights||Derbyshire’s goal midway through the first half was a fair reflection of our performance at the time. Osborn and McLaughlin both put in a decent shift to herald their arrival on the first team scene.|
The usual failure to put the game to bed when we had the chance made us pay in the usual fashion. A reintroduction to ninety-minute performances WITH stoppage time wouldn’t go amiss with some players.
Vaughan – was class as usual. Let’s hope for no last-minute hitches before putting pen to paper in the summer.
A final blast of both barrels goes to Collins and Harding for abject defending and Cox for total inability to read the game let alone put in some effort. Shape up or get out, though I think I know most peoples’ sentiments regarding this trio.
|Referee||Keith Stroud – a few niggly decisions but otherwise nothing match-changing. Glad to see use of the yellow card on a substituted player following Ulloa’s winner.|
6/10 – We were spared the feel of a typical end-of-season match simply because Brighton had something to play for, which at least manifested itself in the latter stages of the game.
|No point in bothering this week – we already knew we were out of it after the miserable collapse at Bournemouth last week, and today was merely an extension of that. Let’s hope it’s a far happier story this time next year.|