Brighton face FA sanctions

Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Lincoln City 3
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The Independent Online
Whatever the poor Brighton players did on the pitch last night, it was never going to be the start of a new chapter in the Seagulls' history and it was never going to quell the Goldstone faithful's dismay with their chairman, Bill Archer, and the chief executive, David Bellotti.

In fact, if the fans had been searching for an excuse to let their tempers get the better of them and put on a protest predicted by police and club all day, it came in the 25th minute when Lincoln's Gareth Ainsworth headed in from a corner at the far post.

With an angry atmosphere already filling the air and the chants, aimed at an empty directors' box, spiralling downwards from "sack the board" to "kill the board", the fans took the goal as their excuse to break ranks - and the players took it as their cue to run for cover in the tunnel.

The hundred or so fans who pushed their way through the strengthened police and stewards' cordon made their way towards the centre circle for a virtually peaceful sit-down protest that briefly boiled over violently when a group broke away to wrest other fans from the grasps of police. The fears of mass violence proved unfounded with only three arrests and the protest fizzled out after just six minutes with the players returning seven minutes after that.

With the players back on the pitch it seemed, for a time at least, that the protests had lifted the spirits of the Brighton players rather than dampened them. A dour performance was transformed into a decisive one and a serious push into the Lincoln half resulted 10 minutes later in a shot from Brighton's Ashley Neal being charged down only for Paul McDonald to drive fiercely towards goal from 20 yards. The Lincoln goalkeeper, Barry Richardson, almost cleared the ball, only to see it bounce off the line and allow Peter Smith to head in at the far post during the subsequent scramble.

But Brighton's relief was short-lived. A 65th-minute header from Terry Fleming, followed by a brief second invasion from 40 or so fans who were jeered back to their seats, was followed by a third goal in the 76th minute from a Grant Brown tap-in.

The end result mattered little however, because the action of the supporters means a report will be filed to the Football Association and then a decision will be made on whether April's suspended sentence of a three-point deduction and the threat of matches behind closed doors will be enforced.

After the match, as the fans chanted "Archer's got to go", the Brighton manager, Jimmy Case, vowed to fight on. "I just want a bit of good news," he said. "And whatever happens I'll stay. But since I've been here there has not been one ounce of good news - written or implemented.

"It's inevitable we'll have to move, perhaps to Portsmouth because time is running out, but the team is OK. For sure they lack a little confidence, both in each other and in the club, and in that respect I really felt for the supporters."

Brighton and Hove Albion (4-4-2): Rust; Hobson, Neal, Allan, Smith; Peake, McDonald, Minton, Mundee; Fox, Baird. Substitutes not used: M Fox, McGarrigle, Andrews.

Lincoln City (4-4-2): Richardson; Whitney, Austin, Brown, Holmes; Alcide, Fleming, Hone, Ainsworth; Martin, Taylor. Substitutes not used: S Brown, Bos, Minett.

Referee: S Bennett (Redhill).

Last night's football, page 25