Football:Brighton sweat at Sudbury

Sudbury Town 0 Brighton 0 Attendance: 3,1 12
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The Independent Online
Considering Brighton's present circumstances their goalless draw against part-time opposition in the FA Cup first round yesterday represented triumph on a grand scale. It was an undistinguished tie which they should have won. They dominated the proceedings territorially for long stretches, all the clear chances - and there were at least five - fell their way.

But they will have been relieved to get out of Sudbury without their season being further undermined. Sudbury failed to carve much out but, willing to absorb interminable pressure and hit on the break, were capable of snatching a goal at any time. Despite the rural setting, and the fact that the small Suffolk market town was appropriately gripped by the occasion, it was still difficult to be swayed by any notion of the romance of the FA Cup. Many of Brighton's fans, their minds presumably tortured by the dreadful possibility that they may drop out of the league and go out of business in the same season, were extremely ungracious visitors. The police presence in their midst took the edge off what should have been a joyous occasion.

It was the first time Sudbury had appeared in the Cup's first round though they have a worthy record in the FA Vase. The Dr Martens League side have also demonstrated commendable resilience in their run to this stage, frequently scoring late goals. Brighton were just the sort of League opposition you would want. And Sudbury's manager, Richie Powling, believed they could win and did not hide his disappointment afterwards. The crowd of 3,112 was not their highest. That came in a Vase match seven years ago, which might also say something about how far Brighton have fallen since their FA Cup final appearance 13 years ago.

They did most of the attacking yesterday, though their lack of confidence was betrayed in most of their early moves. It was as if they knew that their season could completely crumble in a backwater. Their nervousness at this prospect was no better exemplified than by Denny Mundee who, in space in the area, failed to find the target with his shot in the 23rd minute. Nine minutes from half- time Jeff Minton hit the bar from 20 yards and shortly afterwards Brighton forced Nicky Smith to make a goal-line clearance.

Still, there was the feeling that Brighton, and not Sudbury, were up against it. A goal mattered far more to the League club and it refused to arrive. Early in the second half Craig Maskell was allowed to turn inside the area only to see his subsequent shot strike the foot of a post. Maskell was put through again after 63 minutes, but Steve Mokler dashed off his line and used his legs to good effect.

Sudbury came back again towards the end- perhaps they are at their most dangerous in the final five minutes - spurred on by Powling, with Brighton aware that they had done the work without getting reward. Sudbury will be looking for a greater reward in the replay - a second-round tie at home to Brentford.

Brighton's fans were prevented from staging any planned pitch invasion though they did not entirely concentrate on the match. Their final chant of the afternoon put their plight into perspective: "We're going to ground share with Sudbury."