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2010-11 Season Review Part One

The first part of our review of the phenomenal 2010-11 season features August through to December.

After the fine upturn in form Brighton and Hove Albion experienced after Gus Poyet's arrival at the back end of 2009, hopes were high that the club wouldn't be fighting another relegation battle and that, the season before the opening of the American Express Community Stadium, they could give the fans something to cheer.

Little did we know just how much there would be to get excited about....

Pre-Season 2010
Gus Poyet had made a number of new signings over the summer period with some serious money being spent as Tony Bloom came out with the somewhat surprising comment of "we'll be disappointed to be in the play-offs." Inigo Calderon performed an about turn after announcing his departure to Southampton by deciding to sign on for another season, but captain Andrew Crofts followed in the line of previous player-of-the-season winners such as Dean Hammond, Andrew Whing and Danny Cullip by leaving soon after winning the award as he headed to Norwich City for a six figure fee. In came new skipper Gordon Greer from Swindon Town for 250,000 with Ashley Barnes making his successful spell permanent arriving for around 100,000 from Plymouth Argyle. Free transfers included Matt Sparrow from Scunthorpe United, veteran Bulgarian international Radostin Kishishev, goalkeeper Michael Poke and another former loanee, Marcos Painter along with two young Argentinians, Agustin Battipiedi and Cristian Baz. Pre-season saw the team jet off to Portugal for two friendlies, one of which against local side Portimonese ended in a mass brawl and the officials walking off. Former Leeds United keeper Casper Ankergren signed on the eve of the season following Peter Brezovan's broken hand, and preparations were complete as the Albion travelled to the County Ground to open the 2010-11 campaign.


August 2010
Despite missing both Glenn Murray and Gordon Greer, the the season began with a 2-1 win at Swindon with Matt Sparrow taking on the goalscoring midfield mantle and grabbing both himself. Michael Poke marked his only appearance of the season by having a Frank Spencer in the League Cup as Northampton Town stuck the ball between his legs to progress with a 1-0 win, with the more concerning news being a serious injury to Alan Navarro that would rule him out until March. When Greer did finally get on the pitch against Rochdale at Withdean, he lasted around 75 minutes before getting sent off for a punch off the ball, and Ankergren marked his home debut by dropping a cross in the last minute to give 'Dale a 2-2 draw. Worse followed in the 1-0 defeat away at Sheffield Wednesday who were lucky not to go down to ten men when Neil Mellor's push to Adam El-Abd's chest resulted in the defending rolling around in pain clutching his face, and the month ended with Walsall being dispatched 2-1 at Withdean, and the signing of three new players - horse look-a-like Fran Sandaza, Torbjorn Agdestin and Kazenga LuaLua's return on-loan from Newcastle.
Record: P5, W2, D1, L2, F6, A7

Results: 2-1 Swindon A, 0-1 Northampton A, 2-2 Rochdale H, 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday A, 2-1 Walsall H
League Position at End of Month: 7th


September 2010
Liam Bridcutt arrived on a free transfer at the start of September, and his debut saw Dean Cox and Ryan Jarvis eliminate the Albion from the Johnstone Paint Trophy with a 2-0 win at Withdean to give Russell Slade a winning return after he was afforded a standing ovation by the miniscule crowd. Kazenga LuaLua marked his return with an assist for Glenn Murray and a stunning free kick goal that not even the term "bullet" can do justice against Milton Keynes Dons at a wet Theatre of Trees. Casper Ankergren atoned for his Rochdale mistake with an heroic performance that earned a point in a 0-0 draw after the marathon journey to Carlisle. A 2-0 win at the complete opposite end of the country down at Plymouth just three days later saw Ashley Barnes netting against his old club as the Seagulls climbed to second in the league, and they hit top spot on September 25th when Oldham visited as Fran Sandaza marked his home debut with a scrambled goal in the 96th minute of injury time. The consolidation of that spot that lasted the entire season began in the last game of the month, when another LuaLua goal secured a 1-0 win against Brentford.
Record: P6, W4, D1, L1, F7, A3

Results: 0-2 Leyton Orient H, 2-0 MK Dons H, 0-0 Carlisle A, 2-0 Plymouth A, 2-1 Oldham H, 1-0 Brentford H
League Position at End of Month: 1st


October 2010
If September was the month when the Albion went top, then October was the month that they showed they deserved to be there and it would take a serious challenge to dislodge them. A 1-1 draw away at Tranmere was described by Gus as being as bad as a defeat, and despite another Kazenga LuaLua screamer live on Sky against Bournemouth, the game resulted in another draw as the Cherries Steve Fletcher handling the ball outside of the Albion box was deemed a penalty offence by a linesman stood sixty feet away to give the visitors a 1-1. The answer was don't give the officials a chance to influence the game and we certainly didn't in the stunning 4-0 win away at Charlton in front of 3000 fans in a packed away end. Yeovil were defeated 2-0 at Withdean before the month ended with a trip to second placed Peterborough. Posh manager Gary Johnson billed it as a must win game for his outfit, but George Boyd found himself being dismissed early on as the Albion romped to a 3-0 win, missing a penalty and seeing Joe Lewis pull off a string of top draw saves along the way to go eight points clear at the top.
Record: P5, W3, D2, L0, F11, A2

Results: 0-2 Leyton Orient H, 2-0 MK Dons H, 0-0 Carlisle A, 2-0 Plymouth A, 2-1 Oldham H, 1-0 Brentford H
League Position at End of Month: 1st


November 2010
Exeter were defeated 3-0 at Withdean as the Seagulls looked to continue November where they left off in October, but as it would happen that was their only win in the month. Gus made a number of changes for the FA Cup visit of Woking which saw the Blue Square South side grab a replay with a 0-0 draw, and then Kazenga LuaLua suffered a broken leg as Hartlepool triumphed 3-1 at Victoria Park. Penalties were needed to finally dispatch Woking after the game ended 2-2 in normal time as Mauricio Taricco got himself sent off in his first game in six years. New Zealand international Chris Wood marked his debut after arriving on-loan from West Brom with a goal in a 2-2 draw with Bristol Rovers. The toughest test of the season was almost won, as a memorable rearguard performance led by Casper Ankergren at Southampton ended in a 0-0 draw that could have been a win had Wood not seen his spot kick saved by Kelvin Davis, and Elliott Bennett added to the growing trend of 12- yard failures when his miss meant a 1-1 draw with Evo-Stik League Premier Division side FC United of Manchester and another FA Cup replay.
Record: P7, W1, D5, L1, F9, A8

Results: 3-0 Exeter H, 0-0 Woking H, 1-3 Hartlepool A, 2-2 Woking A, 2-2 Bristol Rovers H, 0-0 Southampton A, 1-1 FC United H
League Position at End of Month: 1st


December 2010
Snow, snow, everywhere snow. As blanket after blanket hit England we saw games at home to Colchester and Notts County and away at Dagenham and Redbridge postponed due to the cold snap. The month opened with the FA Cup replay away at FC United in treacherous conditions but a professional job saw the Albion come away with a 4-0 win. Another tough looking trip to promotion chasing Huddersfield saw another missed penalty - the third of the season - as Alex Smithies saved from Glenn Murray. Murray would give the Albion the lead, but the Terriers scored twice to secure a 2-1 win. As if conceding a penalty after a minute and going 1-0 down at home to Charlton wasn't bad enough, Inigo Calderon's two footed lunge saw him see red after just fifteen minutes. Having gone a month without a league victory, the Seagulls showed their champions pedigree as they fought back to draw 1-1 with Murray again on target. They had survived their worst run of the season and mini dip in form still at the top of the table, thanks in part to the weather and none of their nearest rivals seemingly wanting to take over. 2011 would begin at the top, and all was set for a memorable second half of the season
Record: P7, W1, D5, L1, F9, A8

Results: 4-0 FC United A, 1-2 Huddersfield A, 1-1 Charlton H
League Position at End of Month: 1st