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Fearless El-Abd returns to the Amex for a record crowd
Adam El-Abd played his first home game, since his injury, against his childhood local side Nottingham Forest and lead a fearless example in front of his family and in the following game at home to Millwall! Whilst the game away at previously Premiership Blackburn was rained off, giving fellow Fans United club, Plymouth Argyle, a pleasant surprise.
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Nottingham Forest
It’s no secret that Albion’s Egyptian International and fans’ favourite Adam El-Abd spent his early years in Nottingham where his mother and her family are from. Adam’s family all came to Brighton’s glorious ground, the Amex, to watch the game; Adam told Brighton’s Evening Argus paper that his Egyptian father … “saw me play in Dubai for Egypt but he hasn’t seen me play for Brighton since last Christmas, so it will be nice to have him in the stand”. El-Abd’s family were part of the record highest attendance at the Amex with 26,684 people in attendance.
Adam was a force of nature all game, going into every tackle not only with a fearless commitment which injected fear into opposition players but also the timing and technique that has earned Adam his place in both Albion Manager Gus Poyet’s flair filled side but also in the Egyptian national side.
In a fairly end to end match where Nottingham Forest had the taller, heavier players; they often fell back on a longer direct ball to relieve the pressure of Albion’s faster teasing passing movement.
El-Abd made it look easy as he lead the back line in attacking every long ball out from the Forest defence; be it in the air to the giant Dexter Blackstock or drilled to the feet of the on form and well liked Billy Sharp, Adam seemed a page ahead and was a joy to watch; Fans openly spoke of their joy in Adam’s performance, where he has sparked endless pride in long term fans who’ve watched him develop over the many years he’s been with the Seagulls, especially since his return from injury a season ago as Brighton won promotion into the highly competitive English Championship.
While El-Abd looked after the defence and Brighton’s clean sheet looked fairly comfortable with Forest only having two shots on goal all game, the Seagulls were still struggling to convert their chances. A very entertaining battle was Brighton’s right winger Will Buckley once more being marked by Dan Harding; Harding was a former Brighton player in his younger days, who played for Southampton last season and was humiliated so much by Buckley during their visit to the Amex that he was substituted before half-time to save him getting a second yellow card for resorting to fouling the Brighton winger after being left in the dirt so many times. This time around, Harding lasted until half-time but did not return the pitch, his replacement in the 2nd half earned a yellow card within minutes of the restart but appeared to have sufficiently kicked the audacity out of Buckley to limit his embarrassment for the rest of the match.
Albion created chance after chance with the forward players skipping past defenders with the ball on numerous occasions but were either denied by the woodwork or missed the target altogether.
The game ended nil-nil with Albion only having themselves to blame but it was a great show, especially from Adam El-Abd.
Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Nottingham Forest
Brighton and Hove Albion vs Millwall
Millwall are reputedly harder tackling and less “tippy tappy” than most teams, this seemed to be a vast contrast to the football which Gus Poyet has his Seagulls play. The Millwall manager had done his homework as they pressed hard and high up the pitch off the ball and consistently used a higher pass through the midfield making the middle of the park resemble more of a heads a volleys game than a Championship match on many occasions.
Gus Poyet made some questioned lineup decisions where he started El-Abd at right back in the absence of both Spaniards: Bruno and Calderon to injury.
Albion seemed to handle the heads-and-volls in the midfield, most noticeably with 5 foot 7 inch high Liam Bridcutt, leaping like a point guard to rarely lose a header but up front Millwall were putting on a better show;
Millwall’s strike force was lead by the New Zealand International hulk, Chris Wood, who is on loan from Premiership side West Bromwich Albion and was more importantly on loan to Brighton two seasons before as part of their English Division One winning side, where he was pretty popular and many fans would have him back permanently.
It didn’t look like Brighton could handle Wood from the start and the physical game was starting to show holes in Brighton’s line-up with playmaker David Lopez drifting out of the game and centre backs Captain Greer and the young Lewis Dunk struggling to handle the strength and first touch of Wood as well as the pressure so deep in their own half.
The dam finally broke in the 25th minute when Woods converted a low cross from the very quick Adam Smith on the Millwall left wing.
Even though Albion made a few more chances in response they were still snatching, when in the 39th minute, Albion manager Gus Poyet, made a dramatic change, taking off centre back Lewis Dunk and bringing on left winger Kazenga LuaLua. This change moved Adam El-Abd from right back in the centre and most surprisingly moving the playmaking spanish midfielder, David Lopez to right back!
Lualua made an immediate impact, turning his marker inside-out a few times but still no goal for Brighton as Craig Mackail-Smith still couldn’t seem to find the target.
After what was presumed to be a very passionate half time talk from Gus Poyet the Seagulls came out stronger and more organised in the 2nd half; David Lopez started to look comfortable at right back where he had more time to pick a pass. His dead ball specialty was called upon soon after the break and all were on their feet as he curled a 25 yard direct free kick out of reach of the keeper but as per Albion’s recent luck, it was stopped by woodwork.
Just as the Albion fans had sat back down, Millwall’s throw in went to the feet of Chris Wood about 20 yards out, on the right flank; he turned quickly and before he was closed down he released a fierce left foot effort towards Brighton’s far post, it curled up, round and dropped back down over the fully stretched Albion keeper to give Millwall a two goal lead.
Before Brighton fans could lose hope, Kazenga Lualua produced an almost mirror image of Wood’s goal 4 minutes before, except about a hundred miles faster as he once more left his marker for dead, cut inside from the left wing, sold a few dummy shots before unleashing a Kaza special thunderbolt past the helpless goalie from just outside the box.
Brighton had hope and the Woods vs El-Abd battle continued, with Woods getting little of the ball since his second goal but El-Abd received a yellow card after Woods seemed to go down very easily for a man of his size after El-Abd once more batted away a ball drilled to the Millwall target-man.
Adam wasn’t shaken, just a little wiser and Brighton continued to press; Poyet made a double attacking substitution sacrificing the reliable Bridcutt and Crofts for the flair and pace of Hoskins and the knack of nicking a goal in Ashley Barnes;
Finally, in the last 3 minutes Mackail-Smith was brought down in the area and earned a penalty. Since Brighton’s strikers have had problems from the spot, David Lopez stepped up and finished calmly to restore the equilibrium.
Another good show, a close call for the Seagulls but a great come back!
Brighton and Hove Albion 2-2 Millwall
Blackburn Rovers v Brighton & Hove Albion
Even though Blackburn Rovers were in the Premiership last season, won the Premiership in 95 and had the budget to send £8million on one player in the Summer, they were not able to handle the rain and had to call off their game at home to Brighton.
About 800 Brighton fans had travelled up to Blackburn and were forced to turn back, however, many decided that they were still going to watch some football.
Just down the road Accrington were playing hosts to Plymouth Argyle in league two; Plymouth found they they a few extra supporters wearing the wrong colours as the Brighton fans stood alongside their fellow Fans United contributors – another proud day for fans in English football.
Andy Thorpe is a Brighton blogger and season-ticket holder covering Adam El-Abd and the rest of the Seagulls for KingFut.com. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @4psta.