Football: Grounds for Brighton optimism

Stan Hey witnesses a triumph for the fans in the last game at the Goldstone
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The Independent Online
They played "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and "I Will Survive" over the Tannoy, two songs that summed up Brighton's contrasting fortunes in their last League game at the Goldstone Ground yesterday. They might just as well have played "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" as all were captured on a day of good memories, bad football and ugly incidents, at the end of which Brighton, 1-0 winners over Doncaster Rovers, were left needing a draw at Hereford next Saturday to preserve their League status. A seething pitch invasion followed the final whistle and a defiant chant of "We Are Staying Up!" rang around the dying stadium.

The Brighton fans then proceeded to collect all manner of souvenirs from the ground - pieces of turf, fire extinguishers and wooden seats from the stand were claimed as a great seaside party got under way.

Before the game there had been frenzied shopping for memorabilia including a T-shirt printed with the club's most famous results - it was tempting to ask whether they were small size only - not to mention scarves, hats and a commemorative video of the ground.

Inside the mood was both festive and vindictive. Most fans seemed determined to give the Goldstone a cheery send-off, but there was a large element which still wants rid of Bill Archer, the man blamed for the sell-off.

The midweek announcement that Archer was surrendering his chairmanship and majority shareholding in favour of a new saviour, Dick Knight, had brought hope of a truce in the bitter war between fans, board and those who will profit from the ground's redevelopment this summer. Knight was given a standing ovation as he took his seat in the directors' box.

Before the game Doncaster sent out two players with a banner reading "Doncaster Salute Brighton Fans". That was warmly applauded but bought Rovers no sanctuary once the match itself had begun.

They were pinned back as the Seagulls swooped in search of salvation. That the Brighton team were pumped up was understandable but when their captain Ian Baird and the Doncaster defender Darren Moore clashed in a challenge which provoked a huge punch up emotions boiled over among players and crowd alike.

The rolling brawl was eventually stifled by officials and stewards before the referee sent off both Baird and Moore, but if this was not bad enough, Moore, a tall, black defender, was then bombarded with bananas by sections of the West Terrace in a disgraceful, premeditated racial insult.

You were reminded that this weekend marked the first anniversary of a pitch invasion by Brighton fans which forced the abandonment of their match with York City. The suspended sentence of two deducted points was triggered this season by further incursions during anti-Archer protests.

Ten minutes into the second half, however, a massive roar of approval rippled around the Goldstone as the news of Leyton Orient's lead over Hereford, the team above Brighton, came through. But it made the home team more tense, aware that a goal would not only be a fitting finale for the ground, but also a lifesaver for the club.

With just over 20 minutes left, the defender Mark Morris planted a header against the bar and Stuart Storer scrambled home a goal that was historic on the day, and may be doubly so by next Saturday evening.

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