Match Review – Bournemouth 1-0 Brighton

bournemouthawaycupreview2017

So, there will be no trip to Wembley in the Carabao Cup this season as Bournemouth’s stiffs proved to be better than our stiffs. Josh King’s extra time goal inflicted a second defeat at the Vitality Stadium on the Albion in the space of four days, this time in front of an away end in which half the attendees had strangely decided to come dressed as seats.

Yes, in a sold out away end of 1,300 tickets yet there were only 652 away supporters there. That means 648 people spent a tenner buying tickets for the sake of a couple of loyalty points with absolutely no intention of showing up. That has denied genuine Albion fans lower down the points chain who may have wanted to go an opportunity to support their side in an away game. If bed blocking in the NHS is a problem, then seat blocking for games like this is going to be a real problem and it is easy to understand the anger and despair it is generating.

Clearly the club aren’t going to drop loyalty points for home cup games as it guarantees them money through ticket sales, even if people then don’t show up. But away from home something needs to change. This seat blocking means people who may genuinely want to go to a game can’t, the team don’t get the full support from a packed away end they might need, and it distorts the loyalty points system as people with no intention of going to the less glamorous games rack up points to give themselves an advantage when it comes to the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool away later in the season.

What is the solution? We would sack off offering loyalty points for away cup games entirely. Offer them for home games to keep the money rolling in and away league games but giving them out for away cup games is a system that is open to abuse, as we saw last night by the vast swathes of empty spaces in the away end. Yes, people who go to these gamed won’t then be rewarded for their loyalty but that is surely a small price to pay if it actually allows supporters who want to support the team get to games rather than those who solely want 15 points to improve their chances of going to a big club.

As for the game itself, it was a solid defensive showing for the Albion but there was little in the way of cheer going forward. Four goals in two games since the transfer window shut may have papered over the cracks slightly of the cock up of not bringing in a striker, but the fact Chris Hughton started the game at the Vitality Stadium with three wingers up front, Jamie Murphy as a “false nine” and didn’t use one striker from the bench highlights just what trouble we will be in if Glenn Murray or Tomer Hemed join Sam Baldock in the treatment room.

Again, it was Eddie Howe’s substitutions that turned the game. Marc Pugh set up King’s goal and both of those players arrived from the bench with around 20 minutes of normal time to play. That followed on from Friday night when Jordon Ibe set up both goals after his introduction from the bench. What this season so far has highlighted is just what a reactive manager rather than a proactive one Hughton is. He made four changes once we were 1-0 down last night, adding fuel to the fire that he isn’t bold enough to try and change games for the better. We’ve seen that already this season when he waited until the last 10 minutes against a tiring Watford who had played for an hour with 10 men to unleash the pace of Jose Izquierdo upon them and at home to West Brom when a clearly knackered Hemed was only replaced very late by Murray. Managers decisions win you points in the Premier League and Hughton will need to become more positive in his decision making in trying to win us games at some point.

There were a few positives from the evening even if it was dullness on a par with spending an evening with Vince Cable. Tim Krul made a number of excellent stops in goal and we now have three keepers who could all be pushing for the number one spot, even if Niki Maenpaa seems to remain criminally underrated by the management. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Finn giving that he ummed and ahhhed over signing a new deal in the summer to simply remain as back up, was eventually persuaded to do so, hasn’t put a foot wrong in his Albion career and has now been demoted to de facto number three.

Ezequiel Schelotto also made his debut and we are not sure that there is a better Jesus Christ look-a-like in the world, let alone professional football. Two young central midfielders in Dessie Hutchinson and Jayson Molumby both had solid games, Jose Izquierdo got a start under his belt and came close to scoring and we trialed a new 3-4-3 formation which, although not giving us much going forward, proved defensively solid against a Bournemouth side who’s talents indicate the sort of strength in depth that we need to aspire towards now as Premier League side.

The biggest positives however remain that we are out of a cup that could’ve proved to be an unwelcome distraction to the main task of staying in the Premier League. We also don’t have to go to bloody Bournemouth to suffer an inevitable defeat again anytime soon. And in terms of cup football, it gives the Albion three months before we enter the FA Cup to come up with an alternative ticketing policy for away games. It simply isn’t fair on supporters who want to go for 648 people not to show up.

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