York arrived with more than 400 fans, a quarter of yesterday's post-War record low gate at the Goldstone of 2,106. Some had set off at 5am to make the 11am kick-off, and all were well-versed in the mathematics of survival. A point would be good enough, and even defeat would do if York could score three goals.
They were not the only interested spectators from the north. Michael Knighton, the Carlisle chairman, had already made it plain that he felt the odds were unfairly weighted against his side since York knew precisely what was required while Brighton, long-since relegated themselves, had no incentive to offer more than token resistance.
And as any Brighton supporter will tell you, token resistance is all they have put up this year anyway. Yesterday they surpassed most expectations by actually going a goal up after 19 minutes, when Craig Maskell thumped a marvellous looping shot past Dean Kiely from 20 yards, but Knighton's delight did not survive the first 12 minutes of the second half.
There are no big names at this end of the League. Instead, supporters must make do with the siblings of the stars, and while Dean "brother of Butch" Wilkins had a typically patchy game for Brighton, it was Gary Bull, Steve's cousin, who pulled York level from Glen Naylor's cross in the 53rd minute. Three minutes later, Paul Stephenson's precise shot from the left sent York ahead, and their Second Division status was effectively secure.
All the more so since Brighton were by now playing as if they had been dragged away from a relaxing day on the beach. Indeed, in all probability they had, a point which was not lost on Knighton after he had watched Scott Jordan remove all doubt in the last minute.
"Once York had gone 2-1 ahead, Brighton just weren't interested," he said. "We've been relegated and we'll never know if we should have been. This competition should be based on fairness, and towards us it hasn't been.''
Despite yesterday's defeat, which sealed the worst League season in Brighton's history, there was no repeat of the crowd trouble which caused the original fixture with York to be abandoned 12 days ago. The home fans even handed out sticks of rock to visiting supporters, while the York players were loudly applauded by all sections of the crowd as they left the field.
Sadly, the good behaviour did not extend to the pitch, where Zeke Rowe and John Sharples were sent off for brawling, or even the directors' box. After York's third goal, a member of their board turned to Knighton and made some distinctly unsporting gestures. Ordinary supporters have probably been expelled for less.
Brighton and Hove Albion (4-4-2): Rust; Myall, Allan, Hobson (Byrne, 25), Smith (Fox, 86); Wilkins, Mundee, Parris (McDougald, 83), Storer; Rowe, Maskell.
York City (4-4-2): Kiely; Atkinson, Sharples, Atkin, McMillan; Stephenson, Murty (Cresswell, h-t), Jordan, Pepper; Naylor, Bull. Substitutes not used: Randall, Williams.
Referee: G Pooley (Bishop's Stortford).Reuse content