FA Cup 3rd Round
Falmer Stadium, Falmer
Match Rating: 3
With daily torrential rain continuing in the south-east of England, it was obvious that few non-league grass pitches would survive today, and with that in mind, I decided yesterday on a revisit to the Amex, motivated by vastly reduced ticket prices for an FA Cup tie.
Unsurprisingly, there have been no alterations to the stadium since my last visit in May. Congratulations to the club on offering very reasonable ticket prices today of £10 behind the goals or £15 along the length, which contrasted very pleasantly with some of the most expensive ticket prices in the Championship for league games. Unfortunately the club did retain some poor administration fees today, charging £1 for the courtesy of allowing the purchaser to use their own printer to print off a match ticket, just as absurd is charging £1.50 to purchase a ticket in person. Programmes were reduced in size from editions produced for league games for today's match, but still retained a very professional look and feel and consisted of 34 pages and had a nice balance of interesting stats and features.
This fixture certainly wasn't the most romantic drawn in the FA Cup, between two very evenly matched mid-table teams in the Championship. Brighton were in seventh place in the division, accumulating 36 points from 24 games, a point and two positions better off than Reading. However, current forms contrasts considerably between the two teams. Brighton have lost just twice in their last 13 league games whilst Reading have last four of their last six league games and had scored just five goals in their last eight games. When the two teams met in Reading in September, the score was goalless. Unsurprisingly these days, plenty of changes were made to the starting line-ups fir this game, Brighton making eight from their last league game, Reading making five. Today would be the first time the two clubs have ever met in the FA Cup.
The last time I saw Brighton play was at the start of pre-season at Whitehawk with temperatures nudging 30c under cloudless skies. A total contrast with today's cold, wet and dank conditions. This match was very much a game of two halves, with the hosts completely dominating the first half whilst the visitors had the better of the second half. Brighton struck the woodwork three times in the first half, first Keith Andrews after just six minutes, and then twice within seconds on 25 minutes when a long range shot from 19 year old Solly March struck the cross bar and the rebound fell to Ashley Barnes, but his close range header also hit the bar when he should really have done better. Brighton finally deservedly took the lead on 32 minutes when a ball to the edge of the box was chested down by Barnes, and Andrew Crofts struck the ball powerfully and into the net via a sizeable deflection off defender Alex Pearce. 1-0 was how it remained, and one wondered if Brighton might rue not converting more of their chances in an impressive and dominant first half.
Reading came out with much purpose in the second half and went on to suggest they could get back on level terms, without ever creating really clear cut chances and Brighton always looked fairly comfortable as they retained their narrow lead at full time to enter the fourth round draw. A very positive afternoon for Brighton, with the youngsters who got a rare outing today impressing, particularly Solly March.
Video highlights can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_GNFq6zw7Y