Being stuck with the 'in-laws' over Christmas meant that I couldn't make it to the beano against Spurs on Boxing Day (in fact my last match was the away win over Basle) but I still made it to a goalless draw courtesy of Brighton.
The future seems bright for Brighton with a big new 22,000 seat stadium being built in Falmer after years of planning red tape and homelessness. However Falmer won't be ready until the start of the 2011 and until then the team are stuck at the Withdean 'stadium' which is essentially an athletics track with a few temporary stands around a pitch. In fact my girlfriend's school used to have athletics at this very facility. Certainly a unique venue for league football, it is doubtful many will mourn its passing in 18 months. Just check out how far the away fans are from the pitch.
The Seagulls are now managed by Gus Poyet but are struggling around the League 1 drop zone and Orient are in much the same position. This match was a relegation six pointer and no quarter was given by either side.
The stands being so temporary mean that three sides of the ground is uncovered and Boxing Day was wet. The ground do a startling business in selling ponchos. I realise the Cottage used to be like this. In fact I've still got an FFC bagged poncho from my first ever visit somewhere.
But it was wet, cold and not the greatest way for my girlfriend's brother's Aussie girlfriend (you still following this?) to be introduced to the sport. Especially as there were no goals. But there was a sending off by a Brighton player for two yellow cards, the second for stupidly tugging back and Orient midfielder as he ran through with the ball. Orient also hit the post with a cross, but I don't really remember any likelihood of an actual goal. Despite this it was an enjoyable, end to end match.
It also had one of the funniest tannoy announcements I've heard at football. Early on there was a call for the owner of a silver Mercedes license plate blah blah blah to make himself known. The driver clearly hadn't heeded this advice as about 10 minutes later there was a repeat of the call for owner of a silver Mercedes license plate blah blah blah which was parked in Shepherd's Croft, but was now parked in Tongdean Lane because its handbrake had failed.
The thing about the smaller crowd (there's about 7,000 capacity at the ground) is that chants are more spontaneous and more fun. Orient's Scott McGleish did himself no favours with the home crowd when he manhandled a Brighton defender during the set piece and he unfortunately injured himself right in front of the home fans soon after. He tried to laugh it off as he hobbled to the changing rooms on crutches after about five minutes treatment off the pitch, but some of the chants were so amusingly cutting it's a surprise that he didn't just let the ground swallow him up.
Fulham have a trip up to Accrington Stanley tomorrow in the FA Cup and would be well advised to take their waterproofs. I actually went to the Eagle ground nearly 20 years ago to watch them play Mossley (with whom my uncle played) so it's nice, if slightly bizarre, to see Fulham become the first Premier League side to play there.