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The Withdean Years Part Three - 2007-2011

In 1999, Brighton and Hove Albion moved into their temporary home at the cities athletics venue, Withdean Stadium. Having redeveloped the ground significantly, the stay was only meant to last for three years only work on a new permanent home at Falmer was completed. Unfortunately, delay after delay meant that the stay ended up being for twelve seasons.

Before that first game in August 1999, nobody could have envisaged the success and disappointment that would follow in nearly equal amounts among the trees in that leafy suburb of Brighton. Three league titles, four promotions, two relegations and two last-day escapes from demotion will mean that despite all the soakings and the appalling record between 2005 and 2010, Withdean will always hold a special place in Albion fans hearts for being their when the club desparately needed a home.

The final part of our look back at the Withdean years focuses on the struggles from 2007 to 2011 including the arrival of a certain Gus Poyet as manager

2007-2008 Season. Withdean Record: P27 W15 D6 L6 F46 A30
Dean Wilkins first full season in charge saw him bring in a number of new players, including the likes of Nicky Forster and George O'Callaghan. Despite a wobble around Christmas time when three key players left dismayed over the lack of new contracts and criticising Dick Knight, Tony Bloom first appeared on the radar funding the 300,000 transfer of Glenn Murray. The result was the side falling just short of a play off place, although it was a season that again featured more low points than highs.

Best Match: Millwall 3-0 07/09/07
A rare atmosphere was produced by the Withdean crowd and it helped inspire the Albion to a 3-0 win over one of the divisions stronger sides in Millwall. Goals from captain Dean Hammond, Dean Cox and David Martot lifted the Seagulls into fourth spot in the league.

Worst Match: Mansfield Town 1-2 25/10/08
Mansfield were bottom of the Football League and heading for possible extinction. An easy passage into the FA Cup Fourth Round then? Not when your team don't bother to turn up as the Albion did, producing a horror show to twice go behind to lose 2-1 against the Conference-bound Stags.

Wettest Game: Cheltenham Town 2-1 20/11/07
In a rarely wet season, it was Cheltenham who bore the brunt of Mother Nature's frustration. They ended up visiting Withdean three times in 2007/08 in league and Paint Trophy as well as this FA Cup Replay, during which the rain came down as the Albion won 2-1.

Best Performance: Alex Revell v AFC Bournemouth 3-2 01/01/08
Easily his best game in an Albion shirt, Alex Revell saw off Bournemouth with two first half goals and then a stoppage time winner. He celebrated angrily in front of the dugout, sending a message to Dean Wilkins. And was then sold for 120,000 to Southend two weeks later.

Best Goal: Andrew Crofts, Gillingham 4-2 04/03/08
Two seasons before he joined Brighton, Andrew Crofts scored a stunning goal at Withdean as his Gillingham side went down 4-2. With just four minutes on the clock, the Gills captain hit a first time volley from 25 yards that looped over the stranded Michel Kuipers.

Funniest Moment: Gary Hart's sending off v Huddersfield 19/01/08
Having not had many chances to impress, you'd think Gary Hart would grab any first team opportunity. The last thing he'd have wanted to happen when he did get the chance then would to be sent off after the final whistle for squaring up to Huddersfield's Chris Brandon as the players shook hands.

 

2008-2009 Season. Withdean Record: P30 W8 D11 L11 F46 A51
Despite a seventh placed finish, Dean Wilkins was sacked and replaced by former title winning manager Micky Adams. He went about overhauling the youthful, home grown squad with a number of journeyman and loanees, and the results were disastrous. Sacked in February with the Albion looking odds on to be relegated, it was only thanks to the miracle work of Russell Slade and five wins and a draw from the last seven that the drop into League Two was avoided on the last day of the season.

Best Match: Manchester City 2-2 24/09/08
Manchester City arrived at Withdean the richest club in the world. Though the likes of Robinho did not play in this League Cup Second Round game, it was still a strong side that were shocked as they crashed out on penalties against struggling Brighton. More mental pitch invasion scenes.

Worst Match: Walsall 0-1 20/09/08
Four days before that, Walsall arrived in town. Down to nine men within 33 minutes, the Saddlers still found a way to go 1-0 up. Micky Adams answer with a two man advantage was to launch pointless ball after pointless ball into the box and give Clayton Ince 45 minutes of catching practice.

Wettest Game: Millwall 4-1 01/11/08
So we that even the camera's struggled to capture what was going on, which was typical as the Albion trounced a good Millwall side 4-1 to lead to half their fans walking out at half time, wet, cold and unable to see past their own penalty box.

Best Performance: Russell Slade v Stockport County 02/05/09
Victory would secure the Albion's League One place despite having been six points adrift just three weeks previously. Russell Slade sent his side out to win, Stockport were dispatched with ease and the Withdean crowd poured onto the pitch, carrying Russell around on their shoulders.

Best Goal: Fabian Delph, Leeds United 0-2 17/01/09
Pushing forward for an equaliser at 1-0 down, the Albion saw an attacking corner cleared with the ball falling to Fabian Delph on the edge of his box. The youngster then proceeded to escape Glenn Murray with ease, carry the ball 70 yards and curl it past the outstretched fingers of John Sullivan.

Funniest Moment: Colin Hawkins own goal v Hartlepool 08/11/08
With a relegation battle looming, the last thing the Albion wanted was an FA Cup replay and a 750 mile round trip to Hartlepool. Up steps Colin Hawkins, as with expert timing he dives full length to guide an unstoppable header past Sullivan to play his part in helping the visitors grab a draw.

 

2009-2010 Season. Withdean Record: P25 W9 D4 L12 F31 A32
Another summer of change on and off the pitch saw Tony Bloom take over as chairman and Russell Slade use the new man's money to totally overhaul his squad. Unfortunately for the hero of last seasons, big money on Liam Dickinson and James Tunnicliffe didn't pay off, and he found himself replaced by Gus Poyet in November. Poyet executed a real turnaround following the January transfer window, and playing some good football the side finished comfortably in 13th

Best Match: Southampton 2-2 01/04/10
Without their 15 point deduction, Southampton would have been challenging for automatic promotion with one of the best squads in the division. Yet when they arrived at Withdean they were comprehensively outplayed by Gus Poyet's side and it took a last minute goal to rescue them a point.

Worst Match: Stockport County 2-4 30/04/06
Right off the back of a 7-1 defeat at Huddersfield, financially struggling Stockport arrived at Withdean. Tommy Elphick saw red, Colin Hawkins lasted 90 seconds before suffering the same fate and County came away with their only away win of the season.

Wettest Game: Tranmere Rovers 3-0 27/03/10
In another relatively dry Withdean campaign, it took until March for the rain to really hit home in a game, and even that one was tempered with sunny spells. The Tranmere support had had the Withdean wet experience back in 2002, and they were on the receiving end again during a 3-0 defeat.

Best Performance: Grant Holt, Norwich City 1-2 13/02/10
The league leaders Norwich showed why they were the stand out side in the division when they came from behind to beat the Albion 2-1. Their captain Grant Holt had a sensational game, scoring one with a powerful effort from distance and proving to be a constant menace to the Seagulls defence.

Best Goal: Gary Dicker v Exeter City 2-0 27/02/10
Leading 1-0 against Exeter and chasing a first home league win in four months, Alan Navarro's free-kick was only partially cleared by the Grecians defence, and when the ball fell to Gary Dicker he needed no invitation to smash home a right footed volley from 25 yards.

Funniest Moment: Colin Hawkins sending off v Stockport, 30/04/05
Hawkins returned for his first appearance of the season as part of a tactical reshuffle after Elphick's dismissal. 90 seconds later, he was following him down the tunnel as an ill-advised lunge resulted in a penalty and red card. It was the Hawk's last contribution of his memorable spell as an Albion player.

 

2010-11 Season. Withdean Record: P25 W18 D4 L3 F57 A25
Following the second half of last season since Gus Poyet's arrival, hopes were high for 2010-11. But nobody could have honestly expected what was to come, as the Albion bid farewell to Withdean in style playing the best football, demolishing virtually every team in their way and having promotion and the title wrapped up by mid-April. The perfect preparation for the move to the American Express Community Stadium for the following season.

Best Match: Dagenham and Redbridge 4-3 12/14/11
Dagenham arrived fighting for their lives when a home win would secure promotion. Naturally the Daggers went 1-0 up after 30 seconds, Brighton got 2-1 ahead, Dagenham went 3-2 up before the Seagulls eventually won 4-3 for the last mental Withdean pitch invasion scenes.

Worst Match: FC United of Manchester 1-1 27/11/10
Team flying at the top of League One at home to a side struggling four divisions lower in the Evo Stik Premier. It was another FA Cup Withdean horror story as FC United scored with their only attack before Elliott Bennett missed a last minute penalty to condemn the Albion to a replay.

Wettest Game: MK Dons 2-0 11/09/10
Another dry season saw the only significant rain gone in the second half of MK Dons visit to Withdean. Nobody noticed how wet the pre-game and first half downpour had made them though once Kazenga LuaLua riffled in a free kick from 30 yards to secure the victory.

Best Performance: Glenn Murray v Leyton Orient 5-0 01/01/11
Glenn Murray had taken a little bit of time to get going in the scoring stakes, but he started 2011 as he meant to go on with a fantastic hat-trick against Leyton Orient in which he showed just what a vital role he would have to play in the second half of the season.

Best Goal: Liam Bridcutt v Carlisle United 4-3 05/03/11
Withdean thought they had just seen Carlisle snatch a point thanks to a 90th minute equaliser. Liam Bridcutt thought differently though, and in the 94th minute he hit a stunning strike from 20 yards out with his weaker left foot to give the Albion a vital 4-3 win.

Funniest Moment: Poyet hides from Penalties
Brighton and Hove Albion were woeful from the penalty spot in 2010-11. They were so bad in missing eight spot kicks on their way to the title that whenever they were awarded one at Withdean, Gus Poyet would hide behind the dugout in order to avoid the torture of the inevitable miss.

What were your best memories of the final four seasons at Withdean? Share them with us using the comments form.


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