RAMBLE: Brighton -v- Wednesday

RAMBLE: Brighton -v- Wednesday

6.55am on a Saturday.

There aren’t many things I’d get up for at this time of a morning on a Saturday.

I had that confused feeling of sleepy excitement you have when you get up to go on your jollies.

Took me a while to work out why my alarm was going off at crack o’shite o’clock but then it dawned on me.

It’s finally here – the new season and it’s an away trip to Brighton/France.

Oh bloody ‘ell/sacrè bleu.

What a frustrating summer.

I was genuinely giddy at the prospect of my club finally being taken over when it was announced. “We might get good,” I thought.

Everything finally seemed to be falling into place. We had a new owner offering stability and cash with a promising manager at the helm of a team that with a few key additions could really make an impression on the Championship.

But then… nothing happened.

I quickly got bored of the speculation, negative comments and general bad feeling through social media and forums and tried to remain optimistic.

I don’t go in for this ’typical Wednesday’ throwaway attitude put out by some of our own – how can an Azerbaijani millionaire with an armored car or two showing interest in taking over our club be ‘typical Wednesday’?

I trust Milan and know that he is a man of his word. I think the club tells us what we need to know. If he’s still optimistic then so am I.

Michail Antonio - a big loss but also good business

Michail Antonio – a big loss but also good business

I have to admit though regarding the sale of Antonio, I’m sitting well and truly on the fence.

He’s always been great prospect that constantly threatens to live up to his potential and played a massive part in getting us promoted but he rarely delivered last season and looked unmotivated and uninterested in some games.

End of the day, the guy wanted to move on so we should too.

ANYWAY, back to it.

Dad picked me and we went through a check-list for the trip in the car.

We pretty much had enough rations to see us through an apocalypse in a duffle bag that included a surprise late addition of two pork pies.

There was a nice buzz in the car park before we boarded. Blue and white shirts mixed with a few classics.

I dug out the old 90s orange shirt hoping to evoke the spirit of Di Canio or… Orlando Trustfull for the day.

There was also word that we’d completed the signing of Stevie May the night before – a goalscorer with a proven track record no less!

Just gone 8am and wheels were in motion as we settled in for the journey South to the seaside – we might even get time for a paddle!

The club should definitely make more of the coach trips. There’s an opportunity to make it a proper day out for the fans.

Perhaps they should consider sticking a pub quiz on for example as we slowly lose the will to live on the M25 or maybe even turning the radio up so we can hear it at the back? And maybe budget for a bigger coach for longer trips? Brighton is far and my legs are long.

Plenty of time for a toilet break...the M25 is always quiet on a Saturday...

Plenty of time for a toilet break…the M25 is always quiet on a Saturday…

We pulled in at Northampton for a stretch and overpriced coffee. Love doing a bit of shirt spotting on away days at the services. Saw a couple from Chesterfield and Bolton this time but of course it was mainly a sea of blue and white.

Spirits were generally quite high as we got back on the bus though in spite of the traffic that was starting to build on the M25. Excited chatter of the season’s prospects interspersed with a ‘yes!’ for when the Blades conceded. There was also an optimistic game of I Spy going, ‘clouds’ and ‘leaves’ being two of the strongest answers.

“We’re stopping a lot aren’t we?” I said to Dad. “Aye.” said Dad. Grim.

Things started getting tense around Croydon.

We still hadn’t left the M25, we weren’t going anywhere and, worse still, I’d just lost my apple under the seat in front.

It was about 2.15 now and we’d been on the road for over six hours.

My phone’s sat nav reckoned we still had an hour to Brighton and we still couldn’t see the sea.

I Spy stopped and the tutting became audibly louder as the clock at the front of the coach continued to tease us towards kick off. Would we even make it? Not since West Ham at home in ‘00 had I ever missed kick off. (Dad forgot the tickets; we won 3-1)

2.50 and finally the imposing Amex comes into view.

Finally the Amex loomed large after a seven-hour journey

There’s a ripple of relieved cheers but we’ve still got to get parked up.

People on the coach are just plain annoyed now – “Happens every season,” “Shouldn’t have stopped at Northampton for 45 minutes,” “Should’ve set off earlier,” “Whose bloody apple is this I’ve just trod on?”

We parked up just outside the stadium and I got to my seat while Dad picked up a programme.
As I walked down the steps to my seat on Row B, the teams came out and what a glorious sight it was.

Decked out in their training tops, it was almost like the Wednesday boys wanted to keep us waiting even longer for the new away kit.

I was half expecting some kind of hastily arranged routine you see at half time at Hillsborough with big Atty working the smoke machine and Palmer on the poms poms. Sadly this wasn’t to be the case but it did look superb in the sunshine once revealed.

As you’d expect, the playing surface was beautiful and the grass almost sparkled in the sun.

What a stadium this is.

It has to be my favourite of the new modern builds. It looked fantastic inside and out while still retaining a great atmosphere which a lot of the new stadiums lack.

This of course had something to do with over 2,500 Wednesdayites and an almost full Brighton end. It was a hell of journey to get to here but football was back!

THE MATCH

Sam Hutchinson challenges Kazenga LuaLua

Sam Hutchinson challenges Kazenga LuaLua

It was actually quite a quiet opening to the game itself.

The atmosphere was electric with our lot in fine voice as always. It looked like Brighton were singing as well but I couldn’t hear them over us.

There were a few half chances in the early stages for both teams with Maghoma screwing a shot over and COG offering a tame effort towards the fans that once sang his name.

Brighton probably had the best effort when Coke gave the ball away in the middle resulting in a chance for the always dangerous Kazenga LuaLua which debutant Westwood did well to get down to.

This brought the first roar of encouragement from the Brighton faithful and gave you an idea of what the place could do for a team when they’re in the ascendancy.

Generally, we were doing well. We were holding nicely across the middle and the back two of the immense Loovens and very dependable Lees looked to be forming a nice partnership.

Atty was struggling to impose himself on the game but then he didn’t really have a lot of service coming his way either.

Aside from the blazing French sun melting one side of my face, it was all a bit comfortable with the Seagulls probably just shading it. That was until the 41st minute…

A good spell of possession in and around the Brighton box for us culminated with the impressive Maghoma laying the ball off to the functional-not-flashy, Giles Coke.

Was it a hit-and-hope or a strike expertly judged with precision?

Whatever it was, from about 25 yards out, he found the back of net superbly and we had our maiden goal of the campaign.

1-0.

Bedlam.

You miss this feeling and forget how good it is.

Jumping up and down like an idiot essentially just saying “yes” a lot is immensely fun.

Giles Cokes enjoys his stunning strike with 2,667 bouncing Wednesdayites

Giles Cokes enjoys his stunning strike with 2,667 bouncing Wednesdayites

The nightmare journey down was long forgotten. You could see the emotion pouring out of Coke as he ran the entire length of the pitch to celebrate with the travelling faithful.

A cracking gesture that our lot loved. Good lad.

What a noise from us now. At the end of ‘Weeeee are the Owls….’, the ‘WEDNESDAY’ actually made the hairs on the back on my neck stand up as it echoed around the stadium in a wall of noise.

We were 1-0 up at half time against promotion contenders in France. Brilliant.

We looked confident with Lee and Hutchinson both playing to their strengths. Lee creating space and harrying the opposition while Hutchinson got stuck in and distributed the ball all over the pitch.

Palmer was pushing forward when he could and linked up well with Maghoma on the right.

My only worry was on the left where Brighton seemed to be concentrating all their efforts.

Maguire was pushing forward which meant Mattock was caught out of position a few times and another one of Brighton’s new signing, Fenelon, sought to take advantage.

This was still all a bit surreal. Just over 45 minutes ago, we were still on that chuffin’ coach.

We’ve got to get back on the thing in less than an hour I thought. Best make the most of it then.

Another brilliant tackle by Captain Fantastic

Another brilliant tackle by Captain Fantastic

The second half continued in much the same way the first ended.

Brighton moved the ball around well and without really worrying us.

Loovens continued to command and looked assured at the back (Great bit of business from Gray).

We shared the possession with Brighton and it was all being played in a rather friendly manner until Crofts went over the top of the ball and almost through the shin of Hutchinson when reaching into a tackle.

It was surely a red card.

It had to be and for a change, the right decision was made. Maybe our luck was changing for this season!

There’s always the worry that a red card can go the other way in terms of momentum. Some teams crumble and concede five and some step up and play like they have 12 men, not 10.

Thankfully for us, Brighton just continued to keep playing like they had 11. This meant we commanded the game, kept the ball well and found the gaps.

Maghoma found one of these gaps and, using his pace, got to the edge of the six-yard box. From where I was standing, he should have had an effort on goal but chose the option of cutting the ball back to nobody at all. That was the chance we needed to wrap it up.

Missing that allowed Brighton back into the game.

Tackles were flying in from Brighton left, right and centre as time pressed on and they grew more frustrated. Little ankle clips here and there which angered Gray on the touchline.

Tom was kicking every ball from his seat in Row B

Tom was kicking every ball from his seat in Row B

I was getting more nervous with every attack. It didn’t help that, stood in Row B, I felt like I was actually on the pitch at times and had my vision blocked by the Brighton ‘keeper Stockdale.

COG had had a pretty standard COG performance up until this point: worked hard, laid the ball off well and linked up when he could without end product.

But around 70 minutes he had a golden chance to score against his old club.

Some sloppy defending out on the left saw COG with just Westwood to beat. He opted to place it in the bottom corner but somehow the debutant keeper managed to get fingertips to it and pull off a fantastic save.

COG would’ve been hugely disappointed. That was his big chance to show us Wednesdayites what we’d be missing. He’s an honest lad who played a big part in the promotion season but I don’t think he’s going to score you more than 10 goals a season.

We’re into the last 15 minutes now and losing our foothold.

We’re getting complacent.

Chris Maguire battles with Kemy Aguestien as the Owls try to hang on

Chris Maguire battles with Kemy Aguestien as the Owls try to hang on

They bring on Mackail-Smith who always seems to score against us and they instantly have their tails up even further. Have they really only got 10 men?

Crosses are played in and are dealt with but they shouldn’t be coming in at all! Atty had done okay and put a shift in but his time was up.

Madine, looking trim, ready and wearing a headband (?) came on with 10 minutes to go. He played with a point to prove. I was really impressed with him. He was strong, held the ball up well and hardly fell over at all.

The board came up – 5 MINUTES!!??

There just had to be one more chance for Brighton I thought but thankfully it never came.

We were just too damn good.

Again the discipline instilled by Gray was there for everyone to see as we ran the clock down and kept the ball.

Brighton were chasing shadows; they were done.

The final whistle blew and we’d won our first game of the season in the Championship for the first time since we beat Burnley at home back in 2008.

We were over the moon. Couldn’t ask for anything more.

We celebrated and bounced as the whole team came right over to the away end to show their appreciation.

The heavy-handed Brighton stewards threatened to ruin the victory celebrations

The heavy-handed Brighton stewards threatened to ruin the victory celebrations

Unfortunately one young lad got a little over excited and got on the pitch. He ducked and weaved in fine style and, while yes he shouldn’t be on the pitch, his treatment from the stewards was appalling.

He couldn’t have been much older than 16 but was subject to a left hook and a knee to the head while five grown men pretty much stood on his back.

Our players didn’t take too kindly to this as Semedo and a few others tried to intervene; they were pushed away by the stewards, which incensed our lot.

Things briefly threatened to get out of hand but thankfully the applause and singing drowned out the incident that could’ve ruined the day completely.

There were clearly some stewards just after a punch-up and hopefully this is there for all to see on CCTV. But it did leave a bad taste in the mouth as we left the stadium.

Tom Lees impressed on his Wednesday debut

Tom Lees impressed on his Wednesday debut

Once outside, it was great to hear the comments from Brighton fans as we walked back up the steps to the coach.

“Best support we’ve ever had here”, “Can’t believe how far they’ve come, brilliant” “they just never shut up do they?”

What a great start.

The one word that would sum up the team’s display today would be confident. With Captain Fantastic Loovens at the back and Lees along side we just looked solid. The ball was moved precisely with pace and any attack against us was broken up with relative ease.

There were a couple of hairy moments, sure, and we didn’t offer a great deal up top but Gray got his tactics spot on. He has a belief and trust in the team that seems to feed on to the pitch.

Every one of those yellows wanted to play for him and every one of them earned the shirt for next week in my opinion.

All credit to Stuart.

I really felt for him through the never-ending takeover story as he’s had his hands tied for most of the summer.

But he’s brought the best out of what he’s got and long may it continue.

Before we knew it, we were up the stairs and back on the bloody coach.

But as every Wednesdayite knows, when Wednesday win, United lose, you don’t care how far you have to travel.

 

OWLS ALIVE circliar yeller SPACE

Tom Chittenden
Owls Alive
E-mail: admin@owlsalive.com

Twitter: @tjchitt86 and @OwlsAlive


One Comment

  1. Good ramble, sounded a great day and a solid performance. I think we are going to be very hard to beat and in Loovens and Hutchinson, Gray might just have pulled off a coup or two. 135 points to go.

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