Football: The fight to avoid the trapdoor

Clive White on today's all-or-nothing match between Hereford and Brighton
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Edgar Street is supposedly the second most isolated ground in the League ,but whether it is or not one can safely guarantee that Brighton's co-owner, Bill Archer, and chief executive, David Bellotti, will be as far away from the action at Hereford as possible this afternoon if they have any sense. One certainly hopes so, if only for their own well-being.

Should the Seagulls end up having their wings clipped after 77 years of uninterrupted League membership in this winner-takes-all game (although Brighton need only a draw) it would be advisable if neither man showed his face again anywhere, least of all the club's temporary future home at either Priestfield Stadium or Hove Greyhound Stadium. Tensions are running high at the South Coast club these days and both men are held exclusively responsible for its demise after selling out to property developers.

Fourteen years ago the words "and Smith must score", uttered during a radio broadcast in their heroic but ultimately unsuccessful challenge for the FA Cup, were etched into football folklore; today the words on the lips of those radio commentators with a Brighton bias will be more like "and the Seagulls must not lose". Easier said than done when you have lost 18 out of 22 away games in the League.

But the bulk of those were be before the arrival of Steve Gritt at the Goldstone midway through December, since when, from being 12 points off the pace at the foot of the Third Division and seemingly Vauxhall Conference- bound, Brighton have whittled away the deficit to zero following last week's taut victory over Doncaster Rovers.

Boldly, Gritt declares that they are going to Hereford to win. "We need to approach it the way we have approached our home games," he said.

"Our away form has put us in this predicament."

Asked if he took heart from such atrocious away form, the Hereford manager, Graham Turner, replied succinctly: "No."

Not surprising really since Hereford, by all accounts, were awful in losing at Leyton Orient last week. It is not, though, as if the League would be losing a club steeped in tradition, Hereford's famous FA Cup success against Newcastle came when they were members of the Southern League.

After what Brighton fans did to their own ground last week, admittedly with the club's blessing, it does not bear thinking about what they could do to Edgar Street in the event of defeat.

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