This was the scoreline after only 10 seconds and although it didn’t finish like this, it was probably our most valuable lesson this season: realising that the final score is such an incredibly small part of football.
The Seagulls dominate football in this city not just through their flagship professional teams but the incredible work that is done through Albion in the Community which not only provides football sessions for so many, but they are also building sustainable and affordable homes in Lancing. Unlike most other professional teams, it’s hard to see them as an enemy. Until you’re on the pitch.
A dramatic penalty shootout win against Saltdean United set up a semi-final clash against Brighton’s u21 side. A huge reward for our players and a perfect opportunity to test our mantra that we’re good enough to beat anyone.
The game was scheduled to take place at the end of February half-term which was good for a number of reasons; it allowed those of us who work in education time to watch the 10 hours of footage we acquired of the Brighton team and plan a strategy based on it. The fact we were watching Brighton play against Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs didn’t deter us from our plan. Conveniently for us the game was also scheduled to take place during the international break. This though impacted our opponents more than us.
The day before the game I found myself on the bridge across Falmer station as fans flocked to watched the men’s team play Fulham, I forced leaflets into the hands of at least 100 fans and in an attempt to conjure up support from our opponents international fanbase employed Google translate to learn some basic Japanese.
The David Brent antics didn’t stop there unfortunately. The half-time scoreline read Montpelier Villa 1 – 8 Brighton and Hove Albion and I felt the best thing I could do was get on the tannoy and tell some jokes to the large crowd.
The harshest lesson we learned that day and one that I’m still struggling to come to terms with is that we’re not as good as Arsenal, Chelsea or even Spurs. Brighton certainly had no problem addressing any delusions of grandeur we had.
Brighton have since gone on to win the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup and deservedly so scoring 17 goals in their four games and only conceding two in the process. Admittedly 11 of those goals scored were against us but those two goals they conceded were also us. Both of them.
Not only will those two players have a story to dine out on for the rest of their lives, their team-mates will never forget the day they shared a pitch with Brighton and can be safe in the knowledge
that their approach as a team was not to sit back and wait for the onslaught of the seagulls but to be positive, be proactive and not be afraid of taking opportunities when they come.
The result may not have gone our way but there were some moments that are unforgettable, our u10 mascots and their unerring support of our team, the sheer volume of supporters which was mainly family and friends but still gave our side the chance to play in front of a vocal home crowd. The most lasting feeling is that of taking the lead against a professional side is something that can never be taken away from us and although the final score suggests Brighton are significantly better than us, it’s those fleeting moments that make it all worthwhile.