So Brighton have to satisfy themselves with a play-off place with 89 points- enough for automatic promotion most seasons- the same as Boro but with a goal difference 2 less. No point doing ‘if only’ – over the season, Boro had a perfectly good goal disallowed in their penultimate game that would have put them two points clear. The play-off system whereby the Albion play Sheffield Wednesday 15 points below them on even terms is manifestly unfair but we knew that and in the Owls position we would have been delighted to grab sixth place. More worryingly we play the first game without Lewis Dunk and both without Dale Stephens.
Dale Stephens was both hero and villain. His oblique header provided the second half equaliser. He then got into a spat with Gaston Ramirez as tempers boiled over. He went into a challenge with Ramirez studs showing and caught the Uruguayan with such a nasty gash he had to be stretchered off. However I don’t think it was a reckless challenge as he got the ball first and the referee in dismissing him was influenced more by the spat and the injury. Strangely Brighton played their best football without him as they could and did risk everything to get the winner. Off came defender Greer, on came winger Lua Lua. Although the Seagulls are top scorers with 79 goals they still lack one prolific striker and Ayala and Friend coped with everything thrown at them.
We can content ourselves with a marvellous season. One hesitates to criticise the chairman Tony Bloom who has invested £100m in the club but his counterpart at Middlesbrough Steve Gibson spent big on Jordan Rhodes and Staurt Downing both of whom did even start and brought in Ranmirez and Stuani whilst Chris Hughton who has done a superb job is buying around the £1m level. With 4170m at stake one would have thought that a £25m player transfer budget was justifiable.
Praise to the 3500 fans that had to make to the North East for a 12-30 kick off. I was not one of them. I was on my sofa listening to an irate Pargue who could not get his famous tenner on a draw as the Betfair site had some fault telling him he had exceeded his credit limit. Worse things happens at sea … and on Teesside.