Now that his neck is newly mended, little Dotmund went to The Withdean Stadium to see Brighton equal their record win against the hapless Northwich Victoria.
Brighton and Hove Albion hadn’t won an FA Cup match for five years before this weekend, when they remedied this emphatically by putting a poor Northwich Victoria side to the sword. The final tally, 8-0, was a fair reflection of Brighton’s quick and purposeful counter-attacking play over Northwich’s static defence. The only blot on Brighton’s copybook the whole day was a nearby fan in the South Stand unable to prevent himself discreetly farting during the minute’s silence for Remembrance Day. I’m told it smelt. The weight of history also seemed to weigh heavily on our dubious mascot Gully, who staggered around drunkenly before kick off wearing, for reasons best known to himself, a C.U. Jimmy-style orange wig. The Withdean is an odd place for football. As it’s an athletics stadium, the fans are a little dislocated from the pitchside action. Whilst this means it would take an expert athlete to hit the fourth official with a coin or a fiver folded up into a paper dart, it must also be a bleak place to be on the field when it’s not going your way.
Northwich were reasonable in the first half, but Brighton’s class was always evident when it mattered. They just had more in every department and, in Jake Robinson and Dean Cox, players who looked dangerous whenever they had the ball. Robinson in particular has come into his own since his ex-youth academy coach Dean Wilkins was promoted to club manager. Pleasingly unabashed by the prospect of running at people, Robinson made an opening for Cox to neatly get Brighton off the mark. Robinson then made the second for himself with another piece of dribbling. At this point it was clear that Northwich really had no answer for the kind of dynamism Robinson and Cox were able to provide in attack and yet although the pair made several more attempts which were missed with varying degrees of misfortune by lanky Alex Revell, Northwich were definitely still more or less on terms. After each goal, Brighton seemed to lose focus and composure, and Victoria must, at half time, have fancied that a good start and quick goal would have seen them right back into the game.
They came out with great purpose, and quickly put together their best ten minutes of the match. Pressurising Albion into some panicky last-ditch defending, they were unlucky to hit the post when a shot was deflected, leaving Michel Kuipers in the Brighton goal stranded. It was the story of their day. Not long after, and completely against the run of play, the spritely Robinson won the ball on the right and again ran the tired-looking defence (not helped by wing-backs who resolutely stood on the halfway line, tutting) ragged before adding his second and Brighton’s third. It effectively finished the game as a contest. Phil Senior in the Northwich goal will probably be disappointed with the fourth, Alex Revell’s shot beating him at his near post from a good 30 yards, but otherwise he spent the half as helpless as a rock being pummeled by the sea. Brighton, now pushing up and up, had six or seven players joining every attack, exploiting the large (and growing) gulf between Victoria’s defence and midfield. Robinson – peerless on the day – was unmoved by this glut of new pass targets, and added his third with a fine shot into the top corner. Wilkins, now feeling able to wind things down, gave three of his young team’s legs a rest. His changes, though, did nothing to deter Brighton’s maniac attacking. First to leave was Tommy Fraser, replaced by Alex Frutos – a Tesco Value David Ginola who made some good play on the left and should have scored, denied by Phil Senior once and his own inaccurate header right at the death. Revell and Robinson were next to go in quick succession, replaced by Joe Gatting and Sam Rents, both nominal defenders but, merrily joining the throng up front, both rewarded with their first goals for the club. The eighth and last was notched by Dean Cox, neatly put through and able to beat the now clinically depressed goalkeeper with ease. It was an excellent show of professionalism plus exuberance, the home team hearteningly being mainly products of our own youth system. Northwich were well beaten, but their travelling support seemed less dispirited than their players, who gave up competing after 80 minutes.
Next up for Brighton are Stafford Rangers or Maidenhead, again at The Withdean. They must now fancy a nice third round tie. Against Portsmouth would be perfect. Complacency, however, would be most unbecoming.