Brighton - Amex

3/12/11 Brighton & Hove Albion vs Nottingham Forest (Championship) 1-0 Attendance: 20, 385

Getting a ticket to see Brighton play at their new Amex Stadium in their first season in the Championship is very hard. What with a capacity of 22,000 and almost 20,000 season ticket holders, there are only 1,000 tickets up for each match. I was going to see them play Gillingham in the Carling Cup back in August but couldn't make it in the end. Then attempts to get them for matches against Barnsley and Coventry were unsuccessful. But luckily I was able to get one on line for the game against Forest on 3rd December, which was perfect as my favourite band, Wishbone Ash, would be playing in Brighton that evening. So I could kill two birds with one stone. Also I would be completing the 92 for a second time this year, visiting this and crawleys grounds to make up the 92 for this season.
I caught the 11.22 train from Leigh into Fenchurch Street, then a tube to Monument, followed by a brisk walk across the river Thames to London Bridge station. I then got a train as far as East Croydon, where I got off to buy a ticket to Brighton. You see it was cheaper for me to buy a travel card which covered the London part of a journey, and then a return to Brighton from East Croydon, rather then a return from Leigh to Brighton. It was then a forty five minute journey on a stopping Thames Link train, getting me into Brighton at 1.50pm.
As I got off the train it so did lots of Brighton fans, and then there was a massive queue of even more fans waiting to get the train to Falmer that I had to pass through to get my ticket. Luckily there was a ticket inspector selling tickets, so I didn't have to queue up for long. Then I sneaked in the even longer queue to get on the Falmer train, but no one complained. I was hoping to get the 14.02 train but such was the sheer numbers of fans that we had to wait for the next one, which left at 14.10. We were herded between a set of barriers which I suppose was the only way they can cope with such high numbers. It was never this bad going to Withdean! I got in the first carriage (of four - why not eight?), which wasn't even full, but at the first stop, London Road, even more fans got on, and from then on it was standing room only.
There was one more stop before Falmer and then virtually everybody got off the train. The problem here is that it was once a small suburban station, not built for such high numbers, so we all have to funnel through the station entrance to get to the specially built walkways that take you over the lines and to the ground which is just up the hill from the station. No one checked our tickets going or coming back by the way.
I then followed the crowd to the ground, where I did my customary walk round the perimeter taking some photos. I didn't bother visiting the club shop as there was such a long queue to get in. Although it looks quite bland from the outside with its plain concrete exterior, they have tried to brighten (forgive the pun!) it up with some large sheet like pictures of former Brighton heroes, including ex-Liverpool players, Mark Lawrenson and Jimmy Case. My seat is in the lower west stand which is right by these pictures and also happened to be the main stand. There are only two entrances with a four turnstiles each, yet surprisingly there are no queues and you scan your ticket as you would expect in a 21st century ground.
Inside there is plenty of room, though the queues to the refreshment kiosks are quite long. I join one and buy a steak and ale pie (homemade) for £3.50, (which comes in a bright blue box with the Brighton logo on it), and have a half pint of real ale ! Yes real ale at a football ground. Well done Brighton. It's Harveys, a name I am not familiar with but it tastes fine.
As it's nearly kick off, I save my pie for inside the ground and sup up my swift half, before going to my seat which is quite near the back of the lower section, but quite near the goal line. Still it's not a bad view, though ideally if I had the choice I would have bought a ticket in the second or even third section behind me. The ground looks brand new as you would expect, though not the same as many new grounds, such as Derby's, Cardiff's, Hull's etc. The east stand opposite me does look like it could have another stand built above the existing stand, which might well happen, such is the demand for tickets. My only qualm is that all four corners look empty and they could certainly have fitted some more seats in the corners, especially at the away end to my right which is full of over 2,000 Forest fans. I do notice a few odd empty seats in all parts of the ground. So much for a sell out.
There is quite a good atmosphere, not least because clips of old Brighton glory days are being shown on the two screens at either end of the ground and the announcer keeps leading different chants. There is a troupe of American style cheerleader girls, plus the Brighton mascot, Gully all urging the crowd on. It's all a bit false though as the atmosphere dies down soon after the game starts. Apart from the expected chanting from the home end fans to my left.
The game starts rather half heartedly I reckon from my neutral stance and it is Forest who do most of the attacking. Brighton do counter-attack, but it is Forest who create more chances in the first half, especially as the Brighton defence looks a bit shaky, including the goalie Casper Ankergren, who fluffs at least two easier balls, which he should have caught. All in all a quite unexciting first half.
Thankfully the second half was more exciting with Forest nearly taking the lead in the 46th minute when Chris Gunter's cross was headed inches wide by Marcus Tudgay. Forest dominted the second hald without a doubt and I thought they would get the win, but their finishing let them down as they missed chance after chance. In the end it was Brighton who got the winner, in the final minutes of injury time when Craig Makali-Snith ran clear down the right side and passed the ball for substitute Roman Vincelot to pass to Will Buckley to easily shoot into the net. Certainly not justice as far as Forest were concerned, but Brighton showed that the game isn't over until the referee blows his whistle.
I then had a mad dash back down to Falmer station, where barriers were once again in operation. Luckily I arrived before most of the crowd and got onto the platform to get the 17.05 train back to Brighton. My evening was completed with a nice Christmas dinner and a pint for £6.99 in a Weatherspoon's pub, called the Bright Helm, followed by seeing Wishbone Ash at the Brighton Centre - well actually a room at the back of the Centre - before getting a train back to London and arrival back in Leigh just before midnight.

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