Burslem Boy takes a look back at Vale’s FA Cup defeat to Brighton…
It would be churlish to begrudge Brighton their good fortune in finding a sugar daddy. After years of painful exile in the sodden wasteland of the Withdean Stadium they deserved something better. Their new ground at Falmer is definitely something better. Since moving there they have mysteriously attracted 20,000 new fans. I never knew that Falmer was such a hotbed of football. Their owner is a professional gambler and poker player, known as The Lizard. My Methodist soul tells me that no good will ultimately come of this, but ten out of ten to Mr Bloom thus far. He has even resisted the temptation to rename the club Falmer Falcons. So far.
It was easy on Saturday to see why Brighton are high up the table in the Championship and just as easy to see why they are not higher. They have the best goals against record in the top eight and the worst goals scored. They are a big, well organised, athletic team, but they don`t really generate a fear factor. Even so, they are clearly set up for Premier League football. They have a Spanish manager. They have three (!) foreign goalkeepers and a motley collection of Spaniards, Argentinians, Dutchmen and Africans. Most of all, de rigueur in the Premier League, they have a Player With Only One Name. Welcome to modern football.
I did not anticipate this game with much sense of excitement. Brighton may be on the up, but they are still only Brighton. Had we beaten them it would hardly have counted as a giant killing or be long cherished in the Vale folk memory. As it was, we never looked remotely like beating them. Micky Adams changed Vale`s formation to 4-3-3, in an attempt to counteract Brighton`s midfield. This was probably a sensible plan, indicative of the manager`s greater tactical flexibility this season. There was only one thing wrong with it: it didn`t work. I agreed with the choice of Griffith as Man of the Match, but when he wins this prestigious award it is usually bad news, since it means our more talented players have been poor. None of our players is more talented than Lines, but he plays too deep. His goal return is poor. Since he came back from injury Neal has been a mixture of the brilliant and the bizarre. Yates replaced Taylor at half time. He has put in some sterling performances as a stand-in left back, but Saturday`s was not one of them. The front three were frankly awful. In the first half Myrie-Williams had numerous opportunities to put the ball in the box but dithered like Monsieur Wenger during a transfer window. Pope was completely snuffed out by the towering Dunk. Tomlin was equally ineffective. I could have played in goal for Brighton in the second half. We created nothing. Other than Griffith, only the splendid Grimmer and Davis impressed.
More generous Vale fans than myself described Brighton`s first goal as ‘a well worked corner`. I thought it was a complete fluke. I`d like to see them work it again. The ambling Ince flung a lazy leg at the ball under no pressure and watched it sail into Neal`s top left hand corner. The second goal was definitely a fluke. Solomon March floated in a poor looking cross from the right only to see it nestle in the top right hand corner of Neal`s net. At least the young man had the decency to look embarrassed. They clearly bring their children up properly in Lewes. As for the third goal, don`t ask.
League 1 is a very tight division. We have done better than many expected so far, but we will not be going anywhere except down the table if we don`t stop letting so many goals in.