Brighton rock Toon Army as Buckley strike seals dream trip to Anfield
Brighton 1 Newcastle Utd 0
It is symptomatic of Will Buckley's awesome potency these days that even the FA Cup fifth-round draw appears to be under his control. On Saturday evening, Brighton's star player in the defeat of Newcastle was asked what team he would like to be paired with. "Liverpool would be nice," he mused.
Buckley has been granted his wish. Brighton's reward for claiming a famous Premier League scalp is the chance to take another.
They will travel to Anfield next month not in hope, and perhaps not in expectation either, but with the confidence of a team united in their mission. Liverpool will need no reminders of Brighton's resolve. They visited the Amex Stadium for a Carling Cup tie in September, and were made to scrap every minute of the way for a 2-1 victory.
On home soil, they will be strong favourites, but worse teams than Brighton have gone to Anfield and got results in recent years.
Buckley's goal against Newcastle -- unfairly chalked up as a Mike Williamson own goal -- crowned a golden run of form for the 22-year-old wide forward, who had scored three times in his three previous games. Craig Mackail-Smith was supposed to be Brighton's star signing of the summer, but the £1m acquisition of Buckley from Watford has been just as valuable.
Running half the length of the pitch after dispossessing Danny Simpson, he fired in a low shot from an angle that deflected off Williamson. The Dubious Goals Panel? The Amex never celebrated a goal more unequivocally.
"It's incredible," manager Gus Poyet said. "Everything he tries, somehow it goes in. It was a big decision to sign him in, it's a lot of money that we paid for him. But last week I said he'd already paid the money back. It's all plus now."
There were heroes all over the pitch for Brighton. Peter Brezovan in goal; Gordon Greer and Lewis Dunk, who were heroic as Newcastle laid siege late on; Liam Bridcutt, surely the best holding midfielder in the Football League.
Poyet may have to fend off a few offers in the next couple of days. Already Brighton are bracing themselves for an increased bid from Cardiff for Craig Noone, who missed Saturday's game with an injury. But they are poised to sign Wolves striker Sam Vokes.
What of Newcastle? They will welcome back new signing Papiss Cisse and top scorer Demba Ba after Senegal were surprisingly knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations. It is becoming almost a cliche to say so, but they do not look half the side without Ba.
Shola Ameobi and Leon Best ran tirelessly, but neither is in Ba's class. (© Daily Telegraph, London)