Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 2 Newcastle United

(Murray 14’ Pen)

(Diame 81’ Perez 89’)

You cannot beat a night game under the lights. There is a heightened sense of expectation, a feeling you are about to watch something epic. Nothing summed up this feeling better than an away game against Brighton in February 2017.

There’s just something about going to the seaside, even if it’s to watch your football team in a stadium positioned out of town on the top of a hill. An early dart from work on a Tuesday afternoon to get the train from London Bridge with a few cans, winding its way through South London and Sussex and on towards the South Coast.

Time for some pints in town beforehand, savouring the anticipation of a massive game in the context of Rafa’s Championship season. Going into the game, Brighton were top, we were second. We faced a torturous run of games over the following weeks, facing every team in the top seven. This had the feeling of a pivotal match – a chance to build momentum and hurt our nearest rival.

The packed train to the stadium was tense. Both sets of fans knew this was a big night. We trudged up the hill towards the Amex, expectant, nervous, excited.

The game was balanced on a knife-edge throughout. We fell behind early to a dubious penalty converted by Glenn Murray. Is it just me or does he only score penalties? Slowly but surely, we started to assert ourselves, ending the first half on top, but still trailing.

Chances came and went in the second half. That familiar feeling of dread started to lurk on the shoulders of the away end as we entered the last ten minutes. What happened next will live long in the memory of the travelling Geordies.

First, one of the most bizarre goals you’ll ever see, as Christian Atsu’s shot ricocheted off Mo Diame’s heel, looping up into the night for what felt like an eternity before finding its way into the top corner. Then on 89 minutes, a sumptuous Matt Ritchie pass out to the left wing, expertly controlled by Atsu and squared for Ayoze Perez to fire home.

Cue pandemonium in the away end, an outpouring of pure elation and the pressure valve being released ever so slightly in an unrelenting season. The goals had mixed luck and class, but we deserved the win. One of the sweetest and most crucial of victories in a brilliant, title-winning campaign.

The away end stayed in situ for a good while after the final whistle, serenading our victorious heroes and reveling in our joy and Brighton’s misery. Jubilant cries of ‘WHO’S THAT TEAM WE CALL UNITED?’ echoed into the air as we piled onto the train back into Brighton, dumbstruck and delighted at what had just occurred.

You cannot beat a night game under the lights. But throw in a two-goal salvo in the last ten minutes to turn a defeat into victory against your title rivals and take top spot in the league? Priceless.

CRAIG SHAW – @Shawzey15