The one game that Brigton supporters were relishing was the so called A23 Derby with Crystal Palace. Portsmouth is nearer but a series of incidents have intensified the rivalry 37 miles distant between Brighton and Palace to hate pitch. It all started with a cup replay in November 1976 at Stamford Bridge. Brighton were awarded a penalty, Brian Horton converted it but referee Ron Challis, subsequently known as Challis of the Palace, saw an infringement into the box by Peter Ward (he alleges he was pushed) ordered a retake which was missed. Palace then went on to win. Fast-forward to 2013 and the play-offs which Palace won but someone excreted on the Palace dressing room later found to be a Palace defecator.
Last night the security arrangements were tight but not all that considered. The staton was bound to be a flash-point and Palace fans were advised to drink lower down the road from the station at pubs in West Street, one of Brighton’s most dangerous streets where there is a police car parked most nights. Last night the police presence was more numerous but it still meant that Palace fans would march past pubs at the station full of Brighton fans to take the train to the stadium. There were reports of skirmishes. Within the ground Palace fans let off fireworks and flares and outside 150 Palace fans without tickets were denied entrance, unfortunately some with tickets too.
As is often the case there were less fireworks on the pitch and the play was scrappy. Save for the perpetual taunting and chanting, it would have been a drab night but there was a constant edge. I try to be open-minded on the play itself and thought Palace the more fluid, organised team as you would expect from a Roy Hodgson side. In a game of few chances Brighton keeper Matt Ryan pulled off a fine double save to deny Christian Benteke and Wilfred Zaha and, for Brighton, Lewis Dink’s free header went straight into the arms of Hennessey.
When our group left at 10.10, we were told there was lock-out as Palace fans were now fighting the police at the station. We returned to the bar but even when we did leave there was a yapping of dogs and malevolent groups marauding around the stadium concourse.
The best consequence of the night was the denial of 3 points to Palace, still anchored at the bottom, and the one achieved by the Seagulls keeps us in mid-table. On Saturday Liverpool come to the Amex and then away games at Huddersfield and Spurs.