Team: Goodchild, Coyne, Brown, O’Brien, Goode, Howell, Folkes, Maguire, St.Aimie, Balanta, Arthur
Unused subs: Crowther, Ford, Vanterpool
The line up was almost the same as in last week’s win at Northampton, James Folkes started, Josh Ford was on the bench and Romone Rose was still suspended. It was a beautiful sunny day in the Sussex countryside but with it came a very nervous start, from the spectators that is ! The boys started off well enough although the downward slope of the pitch did have some effect on the game. The R’s were playing ‘downhill’ in the 1st half and with the firm ground, it was at times, difficult to keep the ball under control.
After an early Rangers attack came to nothing, there was a foul on Angelo Balanta and the resulting free kick was well taken by Danny Maguire but it went just wide of the left post. Good work from Billy Coyne who worked the ball in well from a corner, passing to Maguire who laid off a good pass to St.Aimie who’s shot on target was just the right height for the keeper to gather easily. After receiving the ball from St.Aimie, we held our breath as a good shot from Folkes was well held by the Brighton keeper. The game carried on with further chances and half chances falling to both sides but with no end product. After about 25 minutes, there was a lovely in-swinging shot from Maguire which was the best of the game but to no avail. Soon after, the R’s were awarded a free kick and as expected, Danny Maguire stepped up to take it but it was actually taken by Lee Brown who did well trying to curl it in but it flew just wide, but to quote Mrs Maguire, “it was a nice red herring”
Rangers continued to battle well and stay focused in what was a pretty even 1st half. Brighton’s speedy little number 7 took some containing. An exciting mazy run from Folkes was unfortunately well blocked and the throw-in didn’t come to anything. There was some concern when he went down for a while with a leg injury but he was able to carry on eventually. A good pass from Balanta to St.Aimie who then shot from 25 yards but once again it was well held by the keeper. Lee Brown then had a cracking shot from 30 yards out which just went over the bar. So half time arrived with no goals to show for a fair amount of action.
The 2nd half started brightly with an excellent cross from Folkes finding Arthur but his downward header was kicked off the line. Five minutes into the half, St.Aimie did get the ball into the net but unfortunately the offside flag was up. As in the 1st half, both Coyne and Brown continued with their long powerful throw-ins. QPR were now playing uphill which consequently, the passing was better. A lovely floating ball from Coyne resulted in a header from Balanta going just wide. We thought that surely, it was only just a matter of time before Rangers would score but with that, Brighton took the ball straight up field and were gifted a free header. Luckily, it went just wide but still drew great sighs of relief from the nervous supporters.
Fifteen minutes into the second half and at last the ball was in the Brighton net.The goal that we had been waiting for arrived. Balanta made a good interception, turned and his shot may have taken a deflection on its way but, “a goal is a goal” (thanks to Clare Coyne for that quote) Deflected or not, at last a precious goal to the good. This was followed by a strong attack from the home side but a good interception from the dependable Lee Brown and the ball was out for a corner. The match was nearly at its end and the League title was within our grasp together with the prestige of finishing two clear points above Southend. With the earlier injury to James Folkes and also Aaron Goode had been down for a couple of minutes, we estimated that there was about four minutes of injury time to be added.
However, drama was yet to unfold. Within the first minute of injury time, Brighton forged up field and scored an excellent goal which drew gentle applause from our contingent but at the same time it was a great disappointment. All being well and as long as they didn’t quickly score another goal, a draw was still going to be enough to win the coveted title but we wanted it by winning the game and not just on goal difference. Also, could the worst happen and Brighton actually score another goal in the remaining minute or so ? Surely there wasn’t time for another one ? Yes there was and it came directly from the kick-off. Chris Arthur made another of his wonderful runs down the flank, beating two defenders and then put a lovely low cross in for Angelo Balanta, who put the ball resoundly into the Brighton net. Cue to great cheers, jumping up and down from the supporters and great celebrations from the lads. Immediately on the re-start, the final whistle was blown.
Time for congratulations all round plus a few photos, a quick sip of the celebratory champagne (that was taking a chance Mrs M) and we were off up the motorway heading towards Loftus Road. What a win, what a game and what a Season..’CHAMPIONS’
So richly deserved by Joe Gallen and the boys. Not just those on the pitch but everyone who has played a part, big or small, over the whole Season. A big ‘thank you’ to, Joe Gallen, Steve Gallen, Terry Springett and all the back room staff from all of the ‘Saturday Morning Gang’
Thanks for this Season and now looking forward to the next one.