This Saturday sees our visitors, Brighton & Hove Albion making the long old schlep from Sussex to Tyneside for another mouthwatering Premiership match up and I, for one can’t wait.
We’ve crossed swords with this crowd many times over recent seasons. The games at the top end of the Championship were proper thrillers, with much riding upon the outcome. Unfortunately, the more recent Premiership clashes have been a tad less pulsating. Both clubs have spent the majority of their top flight lives worriedly looking over their shoulders and the games between us have mirrored this. More interested in not losing, we’ve basically tried to bore each other into submission and the effect has been soporific, indeed. Also, largely to our detriment.
Last season, they came to SJP wearing a frankly revolting all green away number. They were marginally less dog shit than us, and the game was settled by a rubbish, spawnily deflected winner (for them) by someone called Kayal. If nowt else, it certainly suited the occasion.
They arrive on Tyneside, this weekend sans our old pal Comrade Chris, having plumped instead for Gryffindor’s Potter in the Summer. Hughton, a muggle, became the ‘fall guy’ following a terrible run of form last Spring which really should’ve seen them relegated. He did a lot of good there too though and some felt it harsh. At least his exit means that we don’t have to feel the need for any warmth towards them anymore.
Following a rather surprising 3-0 away win at Vicarage road on the opening day of this campaign, their recent run of form has been somewhat less stellar. Home (1-1) draws with West Ham and Burnley plus a 0-2 derby(ish) defeat to Southampton sandwiched in between and a 4-0 howking at t’Etihad, to be precise. They are fellow ‘bottom feeders’ and need to be despatched.
What of United? We return to the (ahem) comforts of home following our latest regulation away defeat at Anfield. To lose by two goals, having taken the lead with a Dutch ‘worldy’ is nee disgrace, but in all honesty we were (depressingly) only ever really there to make up the numbers.
Saturday’s match is much more the ‘acid test’ for Mr Bruce. The old ‘must win’ cliché is most apt and our new head coach-not manager is absolutely desperate for three points. On this occasion, anything else will simply not suffice.
He’s already in a tough situation. Whilst Brighton are no great shakes, I’d imagine (like every other time they come here) they’ll be content to set up defensively and sit tight, waiting for a decent ‘break’ opportunity, a set piece or some Geordie self harm to fall their way. Probably not a bad tactic, to be fair.
So, the big question is, do we have the guile to open them up? Hmm, the jury’s well and truly out on that one.
We’ve seen endeavour and flashes of excellence from Joelinton, but he can’t do anything on his own. The player we most need something from is Miguel Almirón. No one will ever question his dedication or work rate, but he has achieved nothing of real note in the first five games. Everything with him is at 100mph. That’s fine whilst getting forward / harrying etc, but becomes counter productive when looking to assist or notch. His composure in such situations is worryingly awry and therefore, his final ball has been disappointing and the odd chance never in danger of finding the net. We require more from him.
One player who could possibly help in this respect is Christian Atsu. His recent form has been much more encouraging than our more lauded Paraguayan. If his assist v Liverpool was superb, the one in North London was sublime. As a rule, he’s more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’ but given recent form, perhaps our little God fearing African could be the one to unlock the door?
Anyways, to my prediction…. I’d love to say “we’ll turn these over, easily…” but I’m struggling with the reality of that concept. Like all lower end Premiership sides, Brighton still have the odd player who can hurt you. Their recent addition, Maupay seems to fall into this category, and they will happily wait for our opening 15 minutes of cod bluster to pass and let the 40 odd thousand crowd get fidgety. Like the last time out, I can only foresee a dull game, ending 1-1. Which clearly, won’t be enough.
C’mon, Steve. FFS, prove us wrong, man.