How would you script the perfect home match?
The tension of a crucial fixture against a close rival?
Plenty of goals?
A clean sheet?
An unlikeable away manager, to jeer?
A pantomime villain, or two, in the opposition ranks, to boooooooo?
Comedy errors from the opposition keeper?
Whoever had the task of writing this one did an utterly fabulous job. What a thoroughly magnificent afternoon to be an Albion fan.
The Seagulls came into this in good shape, but Norwich City, with their Premier League squad fully intact, sure to present a stern challenge. The Canaries had matched the Albion's results to date, albeit by scoring, and conceding, a lot more goals - their attacking options such that £8m Alex Pritchard, stolen from under Albion noses in the summer, rarely gets a start.
Alex Neill's City have been impressive going forward, if shaky at the back. Neill though, has been far less impressed, however, with the Albion's own methods. His pre-match assessment of Chris Hughton's side provoked a little ire, and plenty of amusement, amongst the blue and white.
So apparently Mr. Neill "knew exactly what to expect" from the Albion, and his side would be "fully prepared" to deal with it. In hindsight, those comments cast an amusingly poor light, on Neill's analysis and tactical nous. Shame.
Alex Pritchard did get to start this one - tasked alongside 'Irish Messi' Wes Hoolihan, and Jacob Murphy - with creating chances for lone front-man Cameron Jerome. Inevitably, Pritchard's name was booed as the teams were announced, and he was jeered every time he touched the ball, thereafter. It's a dangerous game for home fans, such abuse. So often it inspires the target to ram it down your throat. Not Pritchard though - he was shit. Expensive bullet well and truly dodged on this evidence.
If Pritchard was cast in the role of villain though (he had competition, but we'll come to that) the role of jester fell to his team-mate in goal. Michael McGovern performed close to miracles at the Euros this summer - a one-man barrier keeping Northern Ireland competitive in match after match. His unlikely heroics earned him a move from the Scottish wilderness, to compete with recent England cap John Ruddy, at Carrow Road. On this showing, Ruddy must be performing incredibly poorly in training right now.
Just six minutes had lapsed when McGovern took centre-stage. Tasked with dealing with a routine back-pass under little pressure, he conspired to outdo even the recent Bruno/Stockdale abomination. His first touch pushed the ball fully 10 yards to his right, offering Glenn Murray the unlikely chance to race him for it. They reached it together, but the keeper was weak in the challenge, Murray's shoulder barge sending him tumbling to the turf, to sit forlorn, whilst the Albion No.17 rolled the ball gently into the open goal. Full credit to referee Andy Madley for resisting any temptation to blow for any perceived foul. Turns out it is possible to laugh and cheer simultaneously - every day's a school day.
Next to the fore, in this raucous pantomime of a match, Norwich left back, Martin Olsson. The fallout from a tussle in front of the Norwich bench saw Olsson kick out off the ball at Glenn Murray's leg. Murray faced up and the pair indulged in a bit of that crap, foreheads touching, rutting stags thing, that angry footballers do. Olsson the initial aggressor, but Murray not blameless. Yellows apiece. From then Ollson joined Pritchard in the fans' firing line - and coped poorly - his performance visibly affected by his obvious loss of control.
The rest of the first half was all about these two. Boos turned to cheers when Pritchard was chopped down by Bruno, back to boos for Olsson - fortunate to avoid a second yellow for bringing down the breaking Jiri Skalak. Hilarity when Olsson slipped over and let the ball run out for a goal kick, when well placed. Further laughs as he feigned injury to cover his embarrassment. Attention back to Pritchard as he wasted possession yet again - "What a waste of money" / "One greedy *******..."
Into the second half, and more of the same - more cheers and jeers for Pritchard - first booked for leaving a foot in on Duffy, then roasted by Anthony Knockaert, before the little Frenchman fired a foot wide of the top corner.
On the hour, the defining minute of the afternoon. A dangerous free kick to the visitors on the corner of the box, in front of their travelling fans. Our stumpy new HERO stood over it, setting himself to silence his tormentors. Two steps. A swing of the right boot, and... weak - straight at the Albion wall, and away. Not yet clear though - a terrific take and turn from 'Wessi' - by far the Canaries' best performer threatened to prolong the pressure - until he passed the ball straight to Glenn Murray on half-way. Seconds later it was nestling in the Norwich net.
Murray knocked it left to Gaeten Bong (back to his very best now) and set off. Bong released Jiri Skalak with a beautifully weighted ball, to scamper after it, take a touch, and with his weaker left foot, stand up a perfect cross. As three in yellow dithered, Murray arrived between them, and powered down, beyond the helpless McGovern and into the net. Delirium in the stands. Game over on the pitch, as yellow shoulders visibly dropped.
From a City perspective, the rest of the game was a shambles - their travelling fans very poorly rewarded for their efforts. Their team collapsed. Alex Neill deemed it the "Worst defeat of my career" and (rather than looking to his own decision making), that "The players should be embarrassed." Their Brighton born-and-raised captain Russell Martin, humiliated in front of his family, was scathing in his assessment - accusing team mates of not trying.
Just four minutes after Murray's second, a simple Albion third. Murray allowed to shepherd the ball out for a cheap corner - no attempt from the defence to prevent it. Precision in-swinger from Skalak. McGovern neither came nor stayed. Klose flat-footed, as Lewis Dunk rose high above him, to power home. He's one of our own. Easy, etc.
Neill responded by sending on another £16million, in Robbie Brady and Steven Naismith - the Amex rose to their feet to wave off Alex Pritchard, to take his seat and survey what he could have chosen.
The changes had no effect - Neill's team knew the game was up, and played like they didn't really care. A fourth goal resulting from not one but FOUR schoolboy errors - 1. Terrible back pass from Klose sent McGovern wide of his goal. 2. The keeper's hacked clearance barely cleared the box, where 3. Bennett failed miserable to control it, allowing Murray to steal it from him and shoot - 4. McGovern leaden footed as the ball sailed past him.
Hat-trick for Glenn. Absolute scenes.
And time for more - and yet again clowns in yellow contributing to their own downfall - Klose treading on the ball and falling over - for Skalak to steal it from him, and play in Knockaert, to dink over McGovern. A sixth goal of the season for LePM, and a sixth set-up for Mr. Assist - the most in the division.
As the Albion side took the acclaim of the crowd at the whistle - really poor from the Norwich side, failing to go across to their support. The least they could have done.
For the Albion, there are plenty of further stiff tests to come - starting with Bristol City next week - but that is for another day. As Hughton rightly summed up, "Days like this don't come around too often" - one to savour.