Brighton lift game as Bellotti ducks out

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The Independent Online
Brighton and Hove Albion 0 Fulham 0

One of these teams is in a false position in the league's lowliest division, and it will need to be Brighton if their supporters are to stand any chance of seeing league football at all next season.

Brighton and Fulham started and finished the day at opposite ends of the Third Division but, if anyone deserved the three points, it was the home side. Brighton will travel to Rochdale tomorrow night buoyed by the knowledge that, while they have not yet remembered how to win, they have at least learned to do something other than lose.

Brighton kicked off without a single clean sheet to their name all season whereas Fulham had scored in every match, and the visitors' confident start implied they had studied the statistics. Brighton's defence, particularly against set-pieces, lacked conviction, and after just 10 minutes Darren Freeman should have scored from a corner needlessly conceded by Ashley Neal.

It was only a matter of time, it seemed, before failure to clear a corner or long throw would set Fulham on their way but, as a largely sterile first half progressed, the home side and their supporters began to realise a thrashing was not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

Brighton's self-belief took hold midway through the second period. After more than an hour of constant abuse, David Bellotti, Brighton's much-reviled chief executive, decided to retire from the directors' box, allowing the home fans to channel their energies into supporting their team. The response was immediate as Jason Peake and George Parris took charge in midfield while, on the left wing, Paul McDonald discovered he had the beating of Fulham's defence.

Three times in the space of 10 minutes McDonald's crosses begged a finishing touch, and Peake might have done better with a free header on 80 minutes. With the final whistle imminent and the leaders long since spent as an attacking force, Peake tested Mark Walton from 25 yards.

It was an encouraging afternoon for Brighton's supporters. But what, they must be wondering, might be achieved if Bellotti were to quit the directors' box for good?

Brighton and Hove Albion (4-4-2): Rust; Allan, Hobson, Johnson, Neal; Parris, Peake, Maskell, McGarrigle; McDonald (S Fox, 84), Storer. Substitutes not used: M Fox, Andrews.

Fulham (3-5-2): Walton; Cusack, Angus (Thomas, 84), Blake; Herrera, Watson, Scott (Cockerill, 70), Carpenter, Morgan; Conroy, Freeman. Substitute not used: Cullip.

Referee: C R Wilkes (Gloucester).

Bookings: Brighton: Storer.

Man of the match: McDonald.

Attendance: 8,387.