Sunday, 16 October 2011

Brighton Rocking as Tigers Come for Teatime

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 15 October 2011 at the Amex Community Stadium
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Hull City 0
The Championship (the second tier of the English professional game)

This match restores my current 92 (all Premier & Football league clubs in four divisions) and 116 (adding the Conference National at step 1 of the “non-league” game).  For my overseas readers: This is the newest stadium in English professional football.  It opened in August and ends a long wait for Brighton, who had several years playing at an athletics track while planning arguments were resolved.
This match in one sentence
Brighton started well and Hull finished well in a game of many missed chances in front of another near-capacity crowd.
So what?
The clubs have the same number of points, with Brighton nominally one place above Hull in 5th and 6th places respectively.
Something random
I am all in favour of clear and accurate communication
Not quite random, I suppose, but it was good to bump into a former colleague and Hull City stalwart, Richard D in front of the Beer and Pie stand.  He will appreciate my soapbox moment below, because he has also got the been-there-done-that T shirt.
The drama unfolds
The home team started brightly and looked threatening from the start, using both flanks to good effect.  Lewis Dunk had a great chance to plant a header in the 6th minute but missed narrowly.  My scene-setter clip is from the first few minutes as Brighton were pressing.  The home team is in blue.

It took Hull about a quarter of an hour to get their foothold in the contest, but gradually their fans felt confident enough to start up the first homophobic chant of the evening.

Craig Mackail-Smith forced a full-length save from Hull’s Basso just before the half-hour mark.  Hull wasted a free-kick and then had a better chance soon after.  The game was pretty even at this point.  The acoustics of this stadium are really rather good, and there were plenty of “Amex Roar” moments as Brighton tried to go forward.  However, Hull made an excellent chance as Matt Fryatt set up Corry Evans who in turn played in Robert Koren.  His shot fizzed wide, but it was a good chance.  I wrote, “this could be 0-0” in my notes.

After 40 minutes, Koren led another break from midfield which led to a shooting chance, but the interval came with the match still goalless.  0-0 at half-time

The second-half began at the same pace and with the same pattern.  Here’s a clip – I had moved higher up in the stand during the interval.

Hull’s Aaron Maclean might have put them ahead just after the hour.  The ball broke to him in plenty of space and with plenty of time.  His low powerful shot was on target but Casper Ankergren blocked it well.  Maclean also hit the bar ten minutes later and Ankergren tipped a shot from the rebound round the post.  Hull were now looking the more likely to score.

With 15 minutes to go, however, Mackail-Smith started a move in midfield by sweeping the ball out right and then getting forward into a central position for a clear headed chance.  Basso made a flying catch, but really that could and should have been a goal.  With only four minutes left, Brighton’s Craig Noone turned his marker and went on a strong direct run forward – this led to another shooting chance for Mackail-Smith, but another save.

In the final frantic minutes, Hull nearly scored twice.  A swerving shot from Koren from about 20m rattled the bar, and then a deflection was needed (I think from Maclean) to push the ball wide by the width of a bootlace.  My last clip includes the final whistle as Hull were camped in the Brighton box.

As goalless games go, this was pretty entertaining.  As new stadia go, this one is a big success in my opinion.  Well designed and with expandability built in, it must surely be a model for future developments.  Not enough to seduce me away from non-league groundhopping, mind, but a grand day out nevertheless.  Final score 0-0
The sponsors chose Liam Bridcutt from the Brighton midfield, who just happens to be featured in this week’s programme.  I’d have gone for Brighton keeper Casper Ankergren or his opposite number Adriano Basso, or perhaps Hull’s Aaron Maclean just on attitude and workrate.
A snippet from the programme
A very good programme, it has to be said.  I’m going for one of the more obscure excerpts and jumping on a soapbox thereafter:

“Dick Knight and Alan Sanders addressed headteachers from schools and colleges in Brighton and Hove when they met for a recent conference at the Amex.  Around 70 of the city’s education leaders took advantage of the club’s new conference facilities to discuss how to work together to improve standards and achievement for the city’s children and young people… Sanders said, “I was delighted with their enthusiastic response as it was clear that so many of them share our vision.”

To be honest, this caught my eye because of my own professional background.  There was a time around the turn of the century when collaborative arrangements that I was part of had come to national prominence, and I was invited to speak at a number of conferences about school collaboration.  I therefore smiled at the description of “enthusiastic response” because I could name three counties where I would not have been able to say that at the end of my presentation.  One day I might write a piece about the hidden impact of politicians turning schools into competing businesses and therefore subject to market forces, but I guess those who have been the “winners” since the 80s wouldn’t be interested.  It has also been my experience that governing bodies, predominantly made up of parents who have children at the school (which, let’s be clear, has many advantages) are not really that bothered about collaboration and liaison with other schools, and there can be real challenges for the moral framework of individual heads and local groups.  As local authorities' leadership capacity crumbles under budget cuts, who'll be paying attention?  We haven't even yet reached an agreement in this country about how to measure achievement fairly.  *Jumps off soapbox*
What I learned today
Plenty of West Brom connections on the Hull side today.  Former assistant manager Nigel Pearson is in charge of Hull, and Robert Koren flitted in and out of midfield prominence as is his wont.  Paul McShane was an unused Hull sub, and Kevin Kilbane and Jay Simpson are nominally at the club though both are out on loan.  Also, Tony Godden is the goalkeeping coach at Brighton.

In the meantime, fans of contrived stadium-related wordplay will be pleased that Vicente & Calderon lined up next to each other on the Brighton teamsheet.  Not as good as the Costa / Fortune back line that Charlton fielded a few years back, but quite nice nevertheless.
What Next?
Work commitments allowing, Hanworth Villa v Slough Town on Tuesday evening for an FA Cup replay.

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