Brighton and Hove Albion: NSC Minnesota Stars, Oldham Athletic, and Adam El-Abd
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Its been a crazy few weeks since the referee's decision to end the argument that they haven't got playing experience against Walsall
Firstly, we've played matches between Walsall and now. Plymouth Argyle were felled during the mid week fixture, which sums up our season. It was a result we weren't expecting to get. Maybe a close draw or loss, outside chance of edging it.
Realistically though, not many thought we'd play them off the park in the manner we did. Yes, they threatened but really we were comfortable enough. We got our rub of the green (pun intended) and took a valuable three points.
Especially vital to our promotion push given the 0-0 draw with Carlisle on the Saturday before.
And finally, a week before, a home tie against Mliton Keynes Dons, a 2-0 win with goals from Lua Lua and Murray.
Secondly, despite actually being old news, fans of both Brighton and Hove Albion, and the National Sports Centre Minnesota Stars have an informal link!
NSC is the abbreviation of National Sports Centre, but also of the Internet message board NorthStandChat—the Albion board. One poster called Mendoza found The Stars and suggested we adopt them, and they returned the favour.
Scarf, shirt, and signature swaps have been a-happening the last few weeks, and its finally my turn. One NSC Stars fan has adopted Gary Hart—a long time favourite and great servant to the club. I'm hunting down Harty's "John Hancock" while in return I receive former MLS goalkeeper Louis Crayton's autograph.
This fan-made link, I think, shows how truly multi-cultural and wide football spreads and with humanitarian crisis become more and more apparent, it's nice to know people can rally, unite and make peace under the banner of football.
Gary Hart's autograph shall be obtained when Oldham Athletic visit Brighton, tomorrow at 3 pm.
Oldham should, on paper and in footballing theory, be an easy three points. However, this fixture is not one to be taken lightly.
For starters, we've played the second longest round trip in the football league only a week ago, which was quickly followed up by a four- to five-hour trip to Plymouth, before the same four- to five-hour trip back to Sussex.
Fatigue kicks in and will play a role in not only how the team's mental state is, but also how Gus plays this potential banana skin match. Will he play a more attacking 4-4-2? Will he play a lop sided 4-5-1 with a striker playing winger allowing him to drift in to support and change to a lop sided 4-4-2?
Who will he play? Baz, the Argentine? And/or Kazenga Lua Lua, the Tongan loanee who scored his first ever senior goal for us against the MK Dons only a fortnight ago? And/or Elliott Bennett, who is arguably the best player we own right now.
Our strike force poses the same question. Barnes—who got a goal vs Plymouth. Murray who is our most proven striker. Sandaza who is unproven in the English game although has had a spell at Dundee United scoring 14 goals in 34 games. Any combination of one or two could potentially ruin Oldham's defence.
Centre defence is the third area which Poyet needs to consider. Tommy Elphick and Adam El-Abd have been solid. Good clean sheets at a hard away on Saturday and a very good clean sheet against a very good, recently relegated side mean that during club captain Gordon Greer's absence, we've not looked out of place in second.
El-Abd in particular, a player often slated for his technical ability with the ball, is seen as a cover for Greer (and any other defender such is his versatility). However, Poyet said he was Brighton's best defender when he joined in November.
From Poyets arrival, a very passionate player—who is a product of our youth system—but not the most talented of player has seen a major overhaul of his game, and we now play to his strengths. Albion play almost school boy tactics and use Adam as a tackling man.
He doesn't do fancy passes. He's not going to put a through ball from 80 yards away, that means we score a stunning goal with pinpoint precision. He'll pass back, pass along or hoof it clear. Not the "tippy tappy" football Poyet seems to like but every good team has a balance.
Adam is to "tippy tappy" football what the free role is to rigid 4-4-2 formations. Looking like it doesn't quite match up, yet working in perfect harmony with the rest of the team and getting us up to second in this early stage of the season.
Finally goalkeeper Kasper Ankergren could lose his place to Peter Brezovan. Ankergren has been a mixed bag, mixing up Rochdale Athletic and Brighton players to clear his lines with a botched punch when he needn't, yet puling off stunning saves and keeping a fair few clean sheets this season.
Very few positions are safe nowadays for Brighton players. Centre midfield can be populated by four or five class players when we are at full fitness and without suspensions.
With all these options, it's likely that, come kickoff, Poyet will pick his third team in only seven days.
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