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Saturday 7th January 2012 ko 3.00pm

FA Cup 3rd Round

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 1 (Forster-Caskey 48)

WREXHAM 1 (Cieslewicz 62)

Att 18, 573 (2,029 away)

Entry £19.80

Programme (reduced size) £2

Tea £1.80

Chicken & Ham Pie £3.50

On 8th February 1997 I attended Brighton’s home game against Hartlepool United at the Goldstone Ground. The game finished 5-0 with Craig Maskell collecting a hat trick. That isn’t why I remember that day though, as it was “Fans United” day, a protest against the Brighton Directors Bill Archer and David Bellotti, who had sold the ground to a supermarket with no acceptable alternative in place. It was an amazing day with fans from all but 1 of the 92 League clubs in evidence, and a banner bearing the legend, “Real Madrid say Archer out!”

It took Brighton 14 years, 3 months and 11 days from that point to get an acceptable ground of their own. There were 2 years sharing at Gillingham, before a move back to the city at the cramped Withdean Stadium, where I had to pretend to be a Darlington fan to gain entry! (Why aye Man!)

Eventually planning permission was gained for a site at Falmer, at the north-eastern tip of the city. The Amex Community Stadium holds 22,374 but has the capacity to be expanded to around 35,000 by putting seats in the corners, and adding an extra tier to the East Stand. So as to minimise the visual impact, the stadium is set three storeys down into the Sussex Downs. 138,000 cubic metres of chalk were excavated for its construction, which was put on the field on the south side of Village Way. This was estimated to have prevented 20,000 lorry trips taking the spoil to landfill. On 2nd of January, the club submitted an application to Brighton and Hove City council to increase the stadium capacity by a further 8000 seats as well as to add additional corporate boxes, new television facilities and a luxury suite. Given that Brighton has Britain’s first and only Green MP, I would not expect the process to be straightforward. Given that the home sections sell out for all League games the expansion is certainly necessary.

The stadium is close to the A27 Brighton by-pass, close to the intersection with the A23. There is very little parking and fans are encouraged to use public transport, or the temporary Park and Ride schemes in operation. One of these is at Mill Road, situated at the A23/A27 intersection, which holds 500 cars. Another is at Brighton Racecourse, holding approx. 700 cars. The third site is at Mithras House (Brighton University) on the Lewes Road, holding approx 300 cars. The stadium is served by Falmer railway station which is a nine-minute journey from Brighton railway station and seven minutes from Lewes railway station. I opted to park at Lewes Station for £5 and a return to Falmer was roughly £3.50, but group discounts are available. After the game, I found the exit afterwards to be quick and efficient, but I would have expected a far longer queue if I were heading into Brighton itself. This is not a ground to visit if you’re running late!

Arriving at around 12.30, I had plenty of time to have a nose around. Its clear that a lot of thought has gone into the ground. There’s lots of personal touches, such as the Fans Mosiac in the bar named “Dicks Bar” after former chairman Dick Knight. Two local breweries have their beers on tap within the ground, and the away end features a beer from a brewery relevant to the away team!  Even the traffic cones are in club colours! The attention to detail extends to the inside to the ground, with artwork breaking up the swathes of concrete. Its would appear that someone had visited all the new-builds and learned from them. My padded seat was at pitch-level in the East Stand, and while I wouldn’t choose a seat that low down, the view was pretty good, and I couldn’t complain about being too far from the action!

The game saw a Championship side up against a team top of the Conference Premier. Brighton made 6 changes from the side that beat Southampton, and so obviously completely underestimated their opponents. I expect home fans not to have done their homework, comments heard included, ” They’re part-time, they’ll run out of steam…” when the vast majority of the Conference Premier is full-time! What was unacceptable was the home players attitude in the first half. They clearly believed that they could simply pass their opponents off the park. Wrexham stuck to good passing football with forwards Andy Morrell and Jake Speight, holding the ball up beautifully, bringing others into play, and Jay Harris in midfield kicking everything that moved.

The second half saw the Seagulls look a little more direct, and were rewarded when Lua Lua crossed from the left and Jake Foster got ahead of the otherwise excellent Nat Knight-Percival to turn the ball in, past Joslain Mayebi. Wrexham continued to work both effectively and hard, and were rewarded with an excellent equaliser. Polish U21 midfielder Adrian Cieslewicz cut in from the right, and squeezed past two defenders, before smashing home from 12 yards. A worthy goal for a worthy team who deserved to take the tie back to North Wales.