Even for a football club with such an outstanding back catalogue of terrible performances, Brighton’s second half capitulation at Fulham on Tuesday night was impressive.
So impressive in fact, that it is hard to recall a worse 45 minutes of football that any Albion side has produced. Ever.
There have been worse 90 minutes, certainly. Practically the whole of the 1997-98 season and 80 per cent of Micky Adams’ Reign of Terror for starters.
But in terms of one half of football in which things fell apart quicker than a sand castle as the tide comes in, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that beats what went on at Craven Cottage.
People may point to the time we conceded three goals in the first 11 minutes on the way to a 6-0 defeat at Upton Park in 2012. Or when Huddersfield went mad and scored four times in the second half as they hammered Russell Slade’s side 7-1 in August 2009.
That was a good year for terrible halves of football actually; in February, Crewe scored three times in the final 10 minutes as they won 4-0 at Withdean.
The last time the Albion gave away a 2-0 lead to lose was in Steve Coppell’s first game in charge some 16-and-a-half years ago when Sheffield United scored four times in the last 20 minutes to leave Withdean with a 4-2 win.
Colchester United went in at half-time 3-0 ahead at the Priestfield on Boxing Day 1997 and there was also a 5-1 defeat away at Portsmouth in 1984 after Brighton had gone into the break 1-0 ahead, which sounds spectacularly bad and probably represents the closest thing to the Fulham experience.
The difference between Fulham and all of those others listed though is the circumstances in which the terrible half of football took place.
That West Ham side that blew Gus Poyet’s Albion away would go onto win promotion to the Premier League come the end of the season, clearly marking them out as a better team than one containing Peter Brezovan and Marcos Painter.
Huddersfield’s second half rout came with the comedy figure of Graeme Smith making his debut in goal after Michel Kuipers had been sent off, leaving the Albion to play for an hour with only 10 men against one of the most potent attacking sides in League One.
For the Crewe catastrophe, former television salesman Dean White was in the dugout as caretaker manager and the Albion had to play out the final half hour with only 10 men having already used all of their subs when Jim McNulty came off after suffering the horrific injury which resulted in him having to have a kidney removed.
Sheffield United were awarded two very dubious penalties in the final 10 minutes of their win.
The Colchester game was tempered by the fact that we were the second-worse team in the country at that point in time and that after 45 minutes of absolute garbage, Paul Emblen went on a one-man scoring spree as the Albion came back to draw 4-4.
So, as woeful as all those 45 minutes of football were, you can at least see that there were some straws available for clutching as to why they had occurred. At Craven Cottage, no straws existed.
Anybody looking for an excuse, there simply isn’t one. We were playing a team below us in the table who had won just three times all season. We were 2-0 ahead and cruising, nobody had been sent off and the man in the middle Lee Probert hardly put a foot wrong.
It was a case of bottling it, pure and simple. All 13 players who played were culpable for thinking the game was won, as was the manager for not reacting to Fulham’s new-found dominance and doing something – anything – to affect the situation.
Fulham aren’t a better side than Brighton, we just capitulated and handed them three very precious points. And that’s why that second half at Craven Cottage must rank as the worst 45 minutes Brighton have ever produced.
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