An Unconvincing Win in Falmer
The Amex Stadium
Saturday 17th December 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets defeated Brighton 1-0 in their new Amex Stadium in Falmer yesterday to record their third consecutive away win. Normally of course, Clarets fans would be ecstatic but it all seemed to be an anti-climax in the end and in many ways a frustrating afternoon. Why? Well Brighton had been reduced to nine-men by the 15th minute following two straight red cards for first, Vincelot and then Barnes. Perhaps it was now inevitable we would go on to win this match and maybe even improve our goal difference significantly. In the end though, we had to be content with just the one goal; a goal ironically scored by a defender. It was a belter though and it came in the 32nd minute when Trippier unleashed a thunderbolt from 25 yards out to score his first Championship goal for the club.
Clarets fans were now expecting a panful of goals but they simply never came as Brighton battened down the hatches. Gus Poyet deserved a medal for his tactics considering Albion`s predicament and they certainly worked frustrating Burnley for virtually 80 minutes! In fact with about ten minutes of the game remaining they even started to take the game to the Clarets and came close on a number of occasions to nicking a point. Having said that though, we perhaps only have ourselves to blame for not killing the game off. At times our build-up was far too slow and our shooting non-existent. It was as though we wanted to walk the ball in with so many of our attackers seeming to choose not to open the trigger when it looked the obvious choice.
Three points though are three points and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my day out in Brighton visiting a new ground for the first time after a bracing walk along Brighton beach and a few real ales in the 'Evening Star` pub in town. The Amex with good views and comfy seats is quite a nice ground for a new stadium but there are clearly some design faults as anyone queuing for a pie and a pee at half time would have noticed. There was simply not enough room on the concourse or in the toilets for the squidged in away fans. I was also dreading the train journey back after the horror stories I had heard about long queues and insufficient trains being laid on at the very small Falmer Station. Yes. It was a bit hectic but not as bad as I had feared and I managed to get the second train Brighton bound within about 20 minutes from leaving the ground. I had legged it fairly quickly though on the final whistle and there was quite a long queue not to mention chaos behind me. I would thoroughly recommend going to this ground though in the future if you can make it. The atmosphere helped by the noisy home fanbase was pretty electric although it was a pretty bad tempered game in the end and I should imagine Clarets fans are not particularly flavour of the month amongst Seagulls fans at the moment.
That is their problem though and this morning we can at least comfort ourselves with the fact that we are now in 11th spot on 30 points just five points away from the play-offs positions. Considering we were within 15 minutes of being in the bottom three against Hull at the KC Stadium not so long ago, it is also comforting to know we are now nine points away from the drop zone.
Our next game is at home against second-from-bottom club, Doncaster Rovers on Boxing Day. We now have an ideal opportunity to be in the top ten by the New Year but will we take it? You just never know with the Clarets do you? It is however about time we had some Christmas cheer though with traditionally this period being a death-knell for Burnley!
Eddie Howe now seems to be settling into a pattern for his team selections and tactics. At home it tends to be a traditional 4-4-2 whilst away we tend to be more experimental usually involving more players in midfield and fewer strikers.
Dean Marney was back in midfield yesterday playing alongside McCann and Bartley with Wallace our only recognised winger. Stanislas was on the bench with Treacy nowhere to be seen. In attack we had a number of options with four strikers named in the sixteen. Both Vokes and Austin had to be content with a place on the bench with Rodriguez and Paterson in the starting eleven. Pato was making his first start since the opening game of the season. Hopefully his 100th appearance for the club would prove to be more successful than that opening day against Watford which led to his injury and a recurrence of the thigh problem that kept him sidelined for most of the season.
There was perhaps also another surprise on the bench with out-of-favour, Andre Amougou returning to the match day squad. Brian Easton was the defender to miss out.
In summary then we lined up as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, Marney, Wallace, McCann, Bartley, Rodriguez, Paterson
Subs: Stewart, Amougou, Stanislas, Vokes, Austin
Full Match Report
South Yorkshire referee, Craig Pawson got the game underway on a cold but bright and pleasant day in Brighton. It didn`t take long though for the game to turn ugly. In the fifth minute, Romain Vincelot pulled a sneaky punch on Marvin Bartley and it looked like he had got away with it until the fourth official prompted by Burnley assistant manager, Jason Tindall brought it to the referee`s attention. After some discussion with most Clarets fans not really having any idea what had happened, Brighton were reduced to ten men after the referee showed Vincelot a straight red card.
Brighton clearly angry about the decision now seemed to lose the plot and ten minutes later they were reduced to nine-men after a reckless stamping on Chris McCann. McCann had tackled Ashley Barnes fairly but the striker over-reacted stamping on McCann whilst he was on the ground. The referee had no option to show yet another straight red. The game was now deteriorating into a very bad tempered affair with the referee looking set to have a very busy afternoon. The Seagulls though had only themselves to blame and they did not help their cause whatsoever by now diving all over the place in the penalty area and trying to get our own players sent off. Albion gaffer, Gus Poyet did not show much professionalism either, throwing a tantrum and at one point disappearing down the tunnel.
It was vital the Clarets could now take advantage of the situation and get their noses in front. They just could not seem to step up a gear though and almost seemed bemused by all the ill-feeling around the ground from the home contingent.
There had been very little action in terms of football up to now at either end of the ground other than all the fouls and card-showing. Our first attempt on goal did not come until the 20th minute when Rodriguez`s shot flew into the side netting. At long last though we did break the deadlock 12 minutes later when Burnley took advantage from a short-corner by Wallace. Kieran Trippier from 25 yards out let rip with a scorcher and the ball flew into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0 Clarets.
Would the flood gates now open? Well it was nearly 2-0 soon after taking the lead when Rodriguez got on the end of a Trippier cross only to see Seagull`s keeper, Casper Ankergren pull off a good save.
Poyet though had a plan to frustrate the Clarets. He obviously now packed the defence with as many players as he could afford (I counted eight at one point) hoping to then catch us out on the break. It nearly worked a few times before the half-time whistle. Craig Noone in particular was beginning to be a bit of a handful for the Clarets after coming on in the 20th minute and he looked to have earned Albion a penalty after going down from a Duff challenge in the area. The home crowd`s animosity towards the referee though went up a notch when he waved play-on.
The Clarets went into the break just 1-0 up after a bruising, frustrating battle in the first 45 minutes. Would the second half finally break Albion`s spirit and produce the goal rush we were all eager to see?
Well Howe thought bringing Vokes on for the second-half to replace, Marvin Bartley, might improve our chances up front. We now had virtually all the possession and yet somehow never really created any clear cut chances often looking laboured and slow in the build up allowing Brighton`s packed defence to get back and snuff out any danger.
Considering we now had three recognised strikers on the pitch, it was perhaps surprising we had very few chances on goal with the attack often looking unwilling to let rip with a shot when it looked by far the best option. We seemed to want to walk the ball into the net but it just wasn`t going to happen. The build-up time and time again was plodding and far too slow with Brighton beginning to think they still had a chance to get something from this game despite our two man advantage.
We did though at least have some chances to increase our lead as you might expect with the Clarets now effectively camped in the Brighton half. A Paterson shot took a deflection and flew wide of target before the Albion keeper managed to just keep a Wallace shot at bay. Trippier was busy in the second half charging down the flank and getting over numerous crosses but somehow nobody seemed to be ideally placed to get on the end of them and time and time again they very frustratingly went begging.
Burnley kept pressing, Brighton kept defending! Ankergren kept out a Rodriguez drive and then with 20 minutes to go on the clock, Ben Mee tried his luck from distance only to see the keeper tip the ball over the bar.
It just didn`t look like we were going to increase our lead and as the clock ticked down; you could almost sense Brighton getting cockier and more confident by the minute. Now they started to string together a few chances of their own on the break and Burnley began to look a little jaded and panicky. Lee Grant first had to pull off a good save to deny Taricco, the only time he had been called into action all afternoon and then the Clarets breathed a sigh of relief as Brighton stiker, Craig Mackail-Smith, who had been strangely subdued all afternoon suddenly burst into action putting two attempts just inches wide of target.
Surely the unthinkable would not happen would it? It was rather annoying to think that Clarets fans were the more nervous when four minutes of added time was announced. We should have been on Planet Pluto by then! Almost unbelievably, it was Brighton now forcing the issue. Grant had to be alert to deny Mackail-Smith who had managed to get in behind the Burnley defence. Moments later, Mackail-Smith looked almost certain to equalise again but this time David Edgar got in the way to make a goal-line clearance.
It is not often you come away with a win on your travels and feel disappointed but this was one of those games and in the end it was almost a relief when the final whistle went. It was though at the same time somehow a very enjoyable day out and by the time I got back to Cambridgeshire, I had a pretty broad smirk on my face! In the cold light of day, it was still job done, considering we are only the third team this season to come away from the Amex with all three points! We also kept a clean sheet which at least is another comforting aspect for the 900 plus Clarets fans who made the long journey south.
Brighton: Ankergren, Greer, Dunk, El-Abd, Vincelot, Taricco, Harley (Noone 20), LuaLua (Navarro 20), Bridcutt (Buckley 89), Barnes, Mackail-Smith
Subs Not Used: Brezovan, Paynter
Booked: Straight Red Cards for for Vincelot (5 minutes) and Barnes (15 minutes). Yellow card for Taricco
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, Marney, Wallace, McCann, Bartley (Vokes 46), Rodriguez, Paterson (Austin 66)
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Amougou, Stanislas
Goal: Trippier 32
Booked: Yellow cards for Edgar and Paterson
Possession: 49% Brighton, 51% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)
Our defence should have had much less to do for 80 minutes of this game with the team playing with a two man advantage, but they were called into action quite a few times. Michael Duff stood tall when asked to and I would have given him the Star Player award had it not been for one defender who shone even brighter.
Kieran Trippier was obviously a star for scoring an excellent goal which also proved to be the winner but he was convincing in defence and down the flank too although at times his crossing could have been better.