Monday, January 30, 2012

Po-yet again

Brighton 1 - 0 Newcastle Utd

While not on a par with last season's humiliating defeat to Stevenage, and without doubt something of a miscarriage of justice, our umpteenth FA Cup exit at the hands of Gus Poyet was nevertheless a huge disappointment. We toiled away, controlled possession and dominated in terms of chances - but the performance was ultimately somewhat flat, as we failed to beat an eminently beatable side.

There could be no question over how seriously the Silver Fox was taking the competition, the side he sent out being the strongest available to him. James Perch deputised for injured skipper Sideshow Bob (to surprisingly good effect, it transpired), but otherwise it was the team that collapsed at Craven Cottage, albeit with a slightly different formation.

We started much the better of the two sides, Leon O'Best expertly controlling a long pass and flashing his shot just wide of the post before ballooning a presentable chance over the bar and into the stands with his head. Danny Simpson went closer after neat interplay with HBA, bursting into the box and blasting a shot that Brighton 'keeper Peter Brezovan repelled, but otherwise opportunities were few and far between.

Our hosts, meanwhile, were largely non-existent as an attacking threat, their most offensive moment of the first half being Matt Sparrow's very un-sparrow-like lunge on Dreamboat, which could have earned him more than just the yellow that probably prompted his withdrawal at the break.

We began the second period with a similar statement of intent to the first, both O'Best and Big Lad calling Brezovan into action. Dreamboat too tried his luck on a couple of occasions, but with the breakthrough continuing to elude us he suffered a moment of madness, tangling with Adam El-Abd on the turf and extending a boot which connected with the defender's ugly mug. Referee Lee Probert missed the incident, but I suspect that trial by retrospective video analysis will find the Frenchman guilty.

The Seagulls then belatedly brought Tim Krul into the game, Craig Mackail-Smith denied a second cup goal against us following his strike for Peterborough in the League Cup in 2009. And seven minutes later they had the lead. Energetic midfielder and (naturally) boyhood Toon fan Will Buckley skipped away from Simpson's lame challenge (in his defence, as the Silver Fox pointed out, our full-back would have risked picking up a second yellow had he got his timings slightly wrong), drove into the box and, not sufficiently pressured by Dreamboat, hit a wayward shot that Mike Williamson inadvertently deflected over Krul's dive. A case of deja vu - the same happened for Stevenage's opener last January.

The Silver Fox's response was to make a triple substitution, with Shane Ferguson, Dan Gosling and Raylor introduced for Davide Santon, Danny Guthrie and HBA respectively - a curious move, given that we were desperate for a goal, time was rapidly running out and we had a striker, Peter Lovenkrands, left kicking his heels on the bench. In fairness to the manager, Ferguson and Raylor gave us greater penetration on the flanks but they couldn't set up the chance we needed to breach a defence in which alleged target Lewis Dunk did reasonably well.

We were, however, denied a blatant late penalty when Ashley Barnes pulled off a diving save to push Dreamboat's 20-yard effort away - an appalling miss by Probert, even if Brighton will argue our midfielder shouldn't have still been on the pitch.

So it was Poyet and sidekick Mauricio Taricco - who enjoyed a second-half touchline spat with John Carver - who were celebrating on the final whistle, as we came to terms with the fact that we still haven't won an away tie in this competition since 2006. Nevertheless, trying to look on the bright side, Brighton were subsequently drawn away at Man Utd's conquerors Liverpool - perhaps avoiding another abject defeat at Anfield is a blessing in disguise...

Other reports: , Guardian

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