Gullible Clarets

A fine Claret - John McGreal
Mark McGhee was upbeat in his post-match assessment and he could be rightly so after his team survived a first half, in which his side were definitely second best, before having the better of a second half in which Clarets once again seemed to fade as the game progressed beyond the half time cuppas.

The match was preceded by the 500 milers parade around the pitch, and the team played out the game in sponsorless shirts that looked decidedly pale due to the names printed into the shirts on this commemorative occasion.
Once underway, the first half was played out largely in Brighton territory and the visitors looked for the most part a struggling team, the Clarets knocked the ball around, finding space down both flanks from which to attack Blayney's goal.

A good four man move on the quarter hour ended with Blayney making the first of a number of key interventions in the half when taking Camara's cross. Blayney came to the rescue again on twenty minutes, this time a fine save denying Branch his fifth goal of the season from a well placed header.

The lead was though gained half way through the half, Akinbiyi collecting his first home goal since joining the Club, heading home after Bowditch's cross had been accurately headed back across goal by an alert Branch.

The goal increased Clarets' tempo and the football played was a pleasure to watch for a while. Camara struck a free kick well but straight at Blayney, before a good interception and direct run from Grant set up Branch one on one with Blayney. Electing power over the option of a chip, Blayney's advance from his line enabled a save, when in truth, two nil should have been the scoreline.

Briefly, we saw something of Brighton's front man McCammon, when, after skipping by Duff, his shot was tame and never going to trouble Coyne enjoying a quiet day in goal. Cahill showed great composure when leaving Hammond in his wake from a touchline tussle, before normal service resumed down at the Blayney end of the pitch and ten minutes from the break, Clarets conspired to miss a sitter.

Camara showing good skill got down to the bye line and his hoisted cross found Duff whose cross-cum-shot fell kindly to O'Connor unmarked eight yards from goal, the new Total 90's managed to put the ball beyond Blayney's left post and the alarming miss was complete.

With Brighton's noisy 1200 or so enjoying the comfort of a roof in the visiting stand, they made the noise to the half time break and were celebrating as though being one down was something of a feat, but it was still the Clarets who looked the more likely to score, Bowditch's volley into the side netting and Akinbiyi just being beaten to a through ball by Blayney bringing the half to a close with Clarets very much in the ascendancy.

HT 1-0.

Clearly the half time team talks differed. Clarets were never the same threat after the break, whilst Brighton were rejuvenated, particularly once McCammon was replaced by the diminutive but effective live wire Robinson, on as a main striker from the whistle.

Clarets began as they had finished and so did Blayney, tipping Branch's headed effort onto the top of the bar moments into the half. One sloppy piece of defending was all it took for Brighton to get back into the game, their equaliser coming in the seventh minute of the half.

Camara was caught out by Reid's run to the bye line and his low cut back was swept home powerfully from close range by the impressive Hammond. A minute on and Brighton nearly bagged a second, when after Cahill's foul was punished by officious ref Mr Mathieson, Hammond's glanced header shaved Coyne's right hand post.

Clearly lifted by the goal Brighton's game improved dramatically and the game swung from end to end, with Clarets at times struggling to get to grips with the re-energised visitors and the Clarets centre midfield in particular, was not to have the best of halves.

Hammond's low cross was inches away from Robinson's outstretched boot as home nerves began to fray, but Clarets had the clearest of the opportunities to claim the three points twenty minutes from time. Bowditch cleverly created space for a right wing cross that was miscued by Guy Butters, the ball fell kindly at Akinbiyi's feet but he missed the target from eight yards when half volleying into Row H.

By now Clarets were using an ineffective aerial ploy to the Akinbiyi/Branch combination, then Duff made way for Roche before Hammond wastefully shot over as Brighton continued to push forwards in the latter stages of the game and Clarets woes were typified ten minutes from time, Roche's quickly taken free kick was not even noticed by a comatose Grant the move breaking down in embarrassing fashion.

By the final whistle the general lack of urgency and even an inability to take throw-ins legally brought proceedings to a disappointing close, the point of little value to either side and the only cheer was that of a scoreline from Cardiff and a certain FA Cup tie.

FT 1-1.

Att:- 11,611.

Sour grapes
There seemed a number of players who either feel that the safety zone is good enough for them, or that they know their futures lie elsewhere next season given some of the individual performances in this game which were well short of those from only a few games ago.

A fine Claret
Clarets have never lost in this shirt. Today's Gary Cahill award goes to John McGreal as one of only a few who managed to contribute to an overall performance of quality that lasted more than forty five minutes.