Monday, 7 November 2011

Brighton and Hove Albion 2 v 0 Barnsley

Sunday 6th November 2011
Football League Championship
Falmer Stadium, Brighton
Admission: £24.00
Programme : £3.00
Attendance : 19,841

A visit to Brighton and Hove Albion’s new stadium has been high on my hotlist ever since it opened for business at the start of this season. Availability of tickets – not that common, given the high percentage of season ticket holders and fans embracing their long-awaited new stadium with relish, together with this match being put back to the Sunday, meant that today would be the day.

 Brighton’s two previous football grounds could not have been more different - the wonderfully old-fashioned and atmospheric Goldstone Ground (to this day, feelings of disappointment bordering on anger swell up inside me when I pass the shopping complex which now stands where the ground used to be) and the Withdean Stadium (one of the most inappropriate grounds lacking atmosphere, however crucial the ground was to the club’s very existence).  

Falmer Stadium (or the American Express Community Stadium, to give it its current sponsored title), is very conveniently located next to Falmer Railway Station, meaning access is as straightforward as can be – although leaving the stadium would turn out to be a complete nightmare, with long queues for trains which were either cancelled or ridiculously short formed. The stadium is located next to the busy A27 dual carriageway – a typical location for a new stadium that would be described as bland, soulless and of the identikit variety. None of these would apply to this stadium though, which looks impressive as one approaches it and is attractively and uniquely designed on the inside and out, with a curved design which slopes downwards quite considerably from the large West Stand down to the East Stand. Thought has obviously been given to the stadium blending into the local South Downs.  Inside, the West Stand has three tiers of seating, whereas the East Stand has only one tier, and behind both goals is a small tier of seating. Curiously, the corners are not used for seating and the stands have a rather odd, unfinished look about it, as if the seating has been place there at the last minute without much thought towards incorporating it into the design of the stadium. The roofs of the stands, all joined together, allow light in, and the blue and white colours of the stadium give it a bright, airy feel, and cushioned seats together with plentiful legroom ensure a very comfortable arena to watch football in.

After a terrific start to the season since promotion from League 1, when they won six of their first seven games in all competitions, things have been rather trickier since, and have now won in their last ten games in all competitions. They found themselves in 13th place going into today’s match. Barnsley have had a difficult start to their season, almost the opposite of Brighton’s, winning just once in their opening ten games, but then won three of their last six games, and found themselves in 17th place. 

After a miserable last game at Watford in midweek, when they failed to even have a shot on target in a 0-1 defeat, Brighton needed a good start, which they had,  piling on early pressure in the opening minutes. They could not score an all important goal, and as the first half progressed, Brighton looked the better team, whilst Barnsley always looked capable of scoring on occasional breaks. Just as it looked like the scoreline would be goalless at half time, Brighton scored their first goal in five and a half hours of play, when defender and captain Gordon Greer scored his first goal for the club with a shot across the keeper after the ball spilled from a free-kick into the box.

Barnsley started the second half strongly and the game looked in the balance until the 56th minute, when Ryan Harley fired home from a tight angle after Craig Mackail-Smith had hit a post. Brighton comfortably saw the game out to win 2-0, it wasn’t a vintage performance but the result was priceless in steadying the ship after their recent poor run. For Barnsley, it looks like being another season of struggle to avoid the drop

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