|Matches of Yesteryear - Brighton v U's 27/10/01|
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 29th Dec 2019 13:38
A little later than usual for this one, as I was actually in Colchester yesterday seeing family. Not particularly good timing given the U’s are at home today, but we’re all fairly far flung these days, so the opportunity to get a sizeable amount of the family in one place at the same time couldn’t be overlooked lightly.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Colchester United
Saturday 27th October 2001
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Match #33 of the series, and we travel to the Withdean in 2001, temporary home of Brighton & Hove Albion at the time. Following sale of the Goldstone Ground in 1997, for two dismal seasons Brighton played their ‘home’ fixtures at the Priestfield Stadium in Gillingham, a distance of over 70 miles. However, this was clearly untenable tong-term, and in 1999 an agreement was reached to allow BHAFC to return to Brighton, playing at the Withdean Athletics Stadium. To accommodate the football spectators, a bank of temporary seats was erected as the South stand, with existing facilities designed for athletics meetings already in place for the North stand. Away supporters were housed on another temporary bank of seats at the east end of the ground, and with the curvature of the running track to accommodate, a considerable distance from the action.
South Stand viewed from the East Stand
Brighton were riding high in the league at the time, under new manager Peter Taylor, and were currently second. Taylor had been appointed at the beginning of the season, after former manager Micky Adams had left to become Assistant Manager at Leicester City. The U’s, managed by Steve Whitton, weren’t going too badly either, and thanks to some excellent home form, were eighth. However, gaining points away were proving to be problematic, and we hadn’t won away since the opening day 6-3 thrashing of Chesterfield.
The U’s lined up:
15..Thomas Pinault (Joe Keith 62’)
21..Kevin Rapley (Dean Morgan 79’)
I don’t remember this match being all-ticket, but I do know the relationship between Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club and the local residents of Withdean was very strained to put it mildly, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been a requirement to ensure the number of fans attending was closely monitored. Maybe, but whatever the reason, I have a receipt for a ticket that was purchased during the week leading up to the game: not something I’d normally do, so there must have been some sort of need.
Aside from manager Peter Taylor, there were one or two names in the Brighton squad at the time, Michael Kuipers in goal for instance, but no one with as big a reputation as Bobby Zamora. Following a successful loan spell at the back end of the 1999/2000 season (six goals in six matches), Brighton signed Zamora permanently in 2000/01. He proceeded to dominate the goal-scoring charts, netting 31 goals in 48 matches across all competitions, not surprisingly taking Brighton to promotion from the Nationwide League Division 3 as champions. Zamora hadn’t had a bad start to 2001/02 either, already with ten goals to his name, and we were barely a third into the season.
I travelled over to this one by train on what was a very wet day, and after a few beers at pubs around the station, caught the shuttle bus out to the ground. As with our own stadium, there were severe restrictions on street parking around the ground on matchdays – basically you couldn’t, and the programme even warned offenders that “individuals who do park in the restricted zone are liable to have their season tickets revoked”. Harsh, but with little or no alternative options for Brighton to play at, it was essential they kept the local residents as content as possible – I won’t say happy, because they were never going to be happy about sharing their leafy suburb with a bunch of football yobs.
My arrival at the ground, much to amusement of onlookers, was accompanied by slipping on the last step leading down into the concourse and landing arse-first in a puddle – not the best of starts, but fortunately the only damage was to my dignity. As for the game, what can I say – probably the best I’ve seen the U’s play and come away with nothing. I recall there was a match at Layer Rd, against Brentford I think, that the U’s were utterly brilliant in, did absolutely everything right, just couldn’t score and the match finished 0-0. Well this was similar, but against a very good team in Brighton, but they somehow nicked it 1-0.
Brighton manager Peter Taylor, put it very succinctly after the match when he admitted "the best team lost". He went on “I've got to give Colchester a lot of credit, they didn't let us have the ball. They were a very lively side, exactly as we expected. They created several first-half chances and should have taken the lead, but when you've got a keeper as good as Michel and a good scorer like Bobby you're always in with a chance”.
After just 90 seconds Kuipers saved well from a Kevin Rapley. Micky Stockwell crossed from the wing, and following a defensive slip, Rapley had the goal at his mercy, but Kuipers raced off his line to block the fierce shot. A few minutes later, after a driving run forward, Duguid blasted inches wide, and on 15 minutes Kuiper again pulled off a brilliant save to keep out a Scott McGleish diving header. We were to rue those missed chances a minute later, when Paul Watson fired a free-kick into the U’s penalty area, and with Ross Johnson caught out, there was Zamora to to-poke in from close range. Very much against the run of play, but the U’s just got right back at it: Izzet blasted a shot into the side-netting, and Duguid, Raply, Izzet and McGleish all forced further fine saves from the Dutchman Kuipers, who was having the game of a lifetime between the sticks.
Second half the pace slackened a bit, but still very much the U’s continuing to take the game to Brighton. There was the constant threat of Zamora and fellow front-man Lee Steele, and with Brighton very much playing on the break, their pace and skill was something to be very wary of. Woodman in particular would take much credit from diving at the feet of Zamora as he broke clear to try and score a second, blocking a fierce angled drive from Gary Hart at the second attempt, and a fantastic double save to deny Zamora and then Paul Brooker in injury-time. However, at the other end we just couldn’t get past Kuipers, and the game finished 1-0 to Brighton.
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 (Zamora 16’) Colchester United 0
Given the festive season is upon us, and mention of Brighton’s temporary exile to the Priestfield Stadium, some of you may have been unfortunate enough to have been amongst the 2,647 present at the 1997 Boxing Day game against Brighton? Rankin, Adcock and then Rankin again had raced Colchester United to a 3-0 lead with less than 30 minutes on the clock, only for Paul Emblen to smash in a 20-minute hat-trick in the second half to bring it back to 3-3. Scott Stamps put the U’s ahead 4-3 with fifteen minutes to go, but with only four minutes to go Jeff Minton despatched a penalty for Brighton to complete a quite remarkable come-back.
Bobby Zamora would go one better in 2001/02, scoring 32 goals in 46 matches, and again a crucial contribution in Brighton winning back-to-back promotions as champions, with Reading and Stoke via the play-offs joining them in the Nationwide League Division 1. The U’s slipped away from their early promise, but still finished reasonably comfortably lower mid-table, well clear of any serious relegation concerns. After a long career playing at the highest level, including a couple of caps for England, Zamora bowed out with one final season at Brighton & Hove Albion in 2015/16, and showed he still had it netting a very respectable seven goals in 26 matches.
Finally, this wasn’t quite the last that Colchester United heard of Zamora. In 2017 The Legacy Foundation, co-founded by Bobby Zamora, Mark Noble and Rio Ferdinand, were in discussions with the council to develop a brownfield site at the Hythe. The foundations aim was “… to deliver schemes for local authorities that not only reduce the pressure on affordable housing and community services, but will empower their tenants through onsite community and sporting facilities”. Unfortunately, the council were unable to unlock a necessary £10m grant from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, and with decontamination costs prohibitively expensive, in 2019 the Legacy Foundation abandoned interest in the Hythe option.
Up the U’s
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