Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWatford 1-0 Brighton- The woeful run continues - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Watford 1-0 Brighton- The woeful run continues - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Watford 1-0 Brighton- The woeful run continues

Watching Brighton and Hove Albion has not been a pleasant experience in recent weeks.

Life in the Championship was looking rosy for the Seagulls up until early September- a run of 5 league wins and one draw in our opening 6 fixtures had us right at the top of the table with pace-setters Southampton. It had been suggested that Gus Poyet’s brand of fluid, passing football would not get us far in the Championship, but we were absolutely cruising.

Then on September 10th, we lost 1-0 to Leicester away- excusable perhaps, considering the quality they have in their squad. Little did we know that this game signalled the end of the honeymoon period.

Things became increasingly difficult. Arch-rivals Crystal Palace inflicted Brighton’s first league defeat at the American Express Community Stadium on September 27th, made particularly painful by former Albion striker Glenn Murray, who netted the last goal in a 3-1 defeat.  As the weeks went by, the goals dried up. After enjoying a month in dreamland, reality had finally crept up on us. Prior to the Watford game, Albion had taken just 4 points out of a possible 24, with no win in 8 league games and just 1 goal scored in our last 4 games.

The Hornets had been struggling at the bottom of the table all season, and lay in twenty-first place. It seemed like the ideal time for an Albion backlash to get things back on track. I had predicted a 3-0 Albion win before the game, and other Brighton fans I spoke to in and around the ground seemed in similarly optimistic mood.

This was my first Vicarage Road experience, and it is your archetypal League One/lower Championship ground; nothing to write home about. However, I couldn’t help but cringe at the PA announcing that “the Golden Boys are on their way” and blaring all the cliché football songs at a deafening volume. Oh, and whoever came up with the idea of playing music when a goal is scored, hang your head in shame, sir.

Back to the subject of the game- Brighton have been hit hard by injury this season: Summer signings Will Buckley, Will Hoskins and Vicente Rodriguez were all out once again, along with centre-backs Adam El-Abd and Tommy Elphick, West Brom loanee Gonzalo Jara Reyes, who was injured in the warm-up, midfielder Gary Dicker and Lewis Dunk, who was rested due to being “under too much pressure” according to Poyet. Despite these setbacks, the Brighton side still looked capable of getting a result on paper, and I was confident that we would walk away with three points.

Much to the dismay of myself and the other 1580 Brighton fans that made the trip to Vicarage Road, Watford dominated the early proceedings, and were unlucky not to find themselves a few goals up in the opening 20 minutes. Veteran striker Chris Iwelumo was winning absolutely everything in the air for the Hornets, and striker Marvin Sordell should have tested Brighton ‘keeper Steve Harper early on, but his efforts on goal were fairly tame. Watford captain Adrian Mariappa did beat Harper with a header around the half hour mark, but he saw his effort come back off the post.

Brighton’s injury crisis worsened when midfield talisman Liam Bridcutt came off after half an hour after “feeling dizzy” according to Poyet, and was replaced by Albion’s 38 year old Assistant Manager, Mauricio Tarrico, who has now made two appearances since “retiring” a few weeks ago.

Watford produced some lovely passing moves in the first half, but Brighton were panicking, and were playing an ineffectual long-ball game that has rarely been seen since Poyet took over. Every time the ball went in the air, a Watford player was there to win it. The boys in yellow were stronger, faster and more passionate than Brighton in the first half, and they were unlucky not to go into the break ahead. 

15 minutes and some more cringe-worthy PA-ing later, and the second half began with Brighton taking the initiative, playing their usual style of pass and move football. However, the end product was simply not there once again, and they were restricted to wild efforts from well outside the box that flew into the stands. Billy Paynter showed  little to suggest that he was good enough to play in the Championship with a display that gave no support whatsoever to key man Craig Mackail-Smith, and centre-midfield pairing Matt Sparrow and Ryan Harley created absolutely nothing. Sparrow worked hard as ever, but failed to do anything of note in attack or defence. As for Harley.. I’ll come back to his performance later.

Brighton were keeping possession but not creating opportunities, and it became increasingly apparent that they simply were not going to score from open play. Corners were not even clearing the first man, and were hoofed away with ease by the Hornets defence, who did not look troubled throughout the whole evening.

Watford eventually took a deserved lead with 13 minutes left on the clock- Iwelumo once again beat his man in the air to knock the ball down for substitute Troy Deeney, who had his first effort saved by Harper, before following up to scramble the ball past Brighton captain Gordon Greer and into the back of the net.

Kazenga Lua-Lua was bought on with less than ten minutes remaining, but the winger made little impact once again. Despite being a goal down, the Albion just had no fire in their bellies, and created no chances to equalise late on. Craig Mackail-Smith was once again left completely stranded up top with no support, and he looked incredibly frustrated at the service being offered.

 Watford held on to take the three points and the Brighton players were booed off by some of the visiting fans after not having a single shot on target.

Gus Poyet was clearly very angry about the performance and in interviews with BBC Radio Sussex and BBC Sport, he said “I don’t remember the last time we were so poor. We got what we deserved. If we are going to play like we did in the last 20 minutes, I’ll go home. If the players are going to kick it, I’ll go home. I don’t care. So we will see if the players are brave enough to pass the ball on Sunday”

We had a lot of players out injured today, granted, but this performance was just unacceptable. I would rather we put the youngsters out than allow players that show no desire to play for the team, such as Ryan Harley, to swan around the pitch doing nothing.

Harley’s performance today was once again, nothing short of disgraceful. He was muscled off the ball so easily and didn’t even bother to try and win it back after losing it, his passing was dreadful and I don’t recall him making one tackle or actually sprinting once. When a player is wearing an Albion shirt, I want them to treat it with the respect that it deserves, and it seems as though he could not have put in any less effort. It is very rare for me to get on the back of an Albion player to this extent, but the attitude of this guy just absolutely stinks. Poyet was chasing him for well over a year before he joined in August, and his faith is being repaid by performances like this. I think the real Ryan Harley must be locked up in a cupboard somewhere in Swansea, and they’ve just sent us the ginger bloke that used to clean the toilets instead. I will be over the moon if he proves me wrong, but from what I have seen, he doesn’t even look like a League One footballer, let alone a Championship one.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a group of Albion fans looking as depressed as they did after this game, but after such a positive start, this run of form has been absolutely devastating. The lack of passion, strength, energy and creativity on the pitch last night was just atrocious, and if we continue to play as we did last night, we may as well move back to Withdean, because we’ll be playing League One football next season.

All in all, Watford were a better side than I expected them to be, and they got their tactics spot on; I don’t think they will struggle to stay up this season. From a Brighton perspective, it is looking more and more as if we have been found out, but Poyet seems adamant that the tactics that are currently being adopted are the correct ones, though of course our form suggests otherwise.

Sunday sees Albion face another struggling side, as Barnsley visit the Amex. It’s a huge opportunity to stop the rot, and nothing less than three points will suffice.

Brighton (4-3-3): Harper 6, Painter 5, Greer 4, Calderon 5, Vincelot 6, Bridcutt 5 (Tarrico (29) 5); Sparrow 4 (Lua-Lua (82) 3); Harley 3 (Barnes (71) 3), Mackail-Smith 4, Paynter 4

Attendance: 11,818 (1,581 Brighton)

James Cook

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