With a starting line-up that included both Craig Noone and Will Buckley you could have been forgiven for thinking that Brighton boss Gus Poyet (my Lord) had picked a team capable of heaping more misery on miserable Portsmouth.
A glance at the bench though confirmed that Gus had left out Mackail-Smith and plumped for our own version of Big Sam (Vokes). Vokes is a tireless worker but Mackail-Smith has the quality to unlock defences.
A truly leaden first half confirmed my fears. A quickly forgotten 45 minutes of hoofing around enlivened only by Portsmouth’s systematic maiming of Noone ended with a goalmouth scramble of epic proportions. As neither team had deserved to score it was appropriate that Brighton’s ham fisted attempt at burying the ball should be repelled by Portsmouth’s cart horse defence. So far so bad.
Early in the second half Tal Ben Haim finally finished off Noone which signalled the arrival of Vicente. He took up a central midfield role and shook the torpor out of the team. Liam Bridcutt – a player who has been described as the best holding midfielder in the division – and Alan Navarro have switched places. Neither looks comfortable in their respective new roles. Bridcutt is pining for his old tap and go spot and Navarro, a big fan of the hollywood pass gave up too much possession.
It took two more substitutions but the team finally roared into life. Vicente buried a free kick after he’d been upended and he finished off Pompey after being set up at the death by Kazenga Lua Lua. Still unbeaten this year but never truly convincing, the Seagulls are back in the top six.
Credit must be given to Poyet, he’s constantly mixing up the team adding loanees here and Spanish superstars there. Its a huge squad now and keeping them all happy and is surely as big of a challenge as repairing Noone after each outing.
The best that Portsmouth can hope for is a minor miracle in the form of a lottery win or finding the end of a rainbow in the kit mans bag. What they don’t need is another halfwit owner cooking the books with a broken abacus. Good luck to them, they will need it. As for Brighton it’s nice to have the strength in depth to be able substitute Noone and Buckley and still up the ante.