ALBION went down 2-1 on Thursday night, leaving them needing a win in the East Midlands tomorrow afternoon. But despite Derby’s impressive home record this season, the Albion faithful are confident of making it through. Reporter Ben James previews Sunday’s crunch match.
NEARLY three thousand Albion fans will make the journey up the M1 tomorrow hoping to cheer the team to victory.
Following Thursday night’s 2-1 defeat, Oscar’s boys will need to beat Derby County in their own backyard to make it to Wembley and the chance for promotion to the Premier League.
But despite the uphill task ahead, supporters have spoken of their confidence before the crunch match.
Bill Arnold, who travels to games at the Amex from his home in Bradford, said it was still all to play for.
Speaking moments after returning home from a mammoth journey to the Amex on Thursday night, he said: “I still think we can do it. I’m confident, I’ve got my ticket for Sunday.
“I set off from where I was staying in Lancing at 8.30am and I’ve just got in. It took about four hours.
“For the first 20 minutes we were brilliant. In the second half their keeper made a couple of excellent saves, he really kept them in it.
“I also think we had a good shout for a penalty. They were all over Ulloa all night. They got away with |murder.
“I didn’t see anything to particularly worry us. I see no reason why we can’t get a result at Derby.”
With nothing to lose, he urged the team to go out with a more attacking mindset against the Rams.
He said: “I think LuaLua should be brought into the game early and maybe even start with Craig Mackail-Smith. He looked really good last night, he wanted to get forward and get the ball in the box.
“There was a good atmosphere at the Amex and I know there will be a great atmosphere on Sunday. Everyone will be up for it, I can’t wait.”
While the majority of the 27,118 left disappointed on Thursday night, there was cause for optimism.
Albion fan Paul Spencer said: “It’s only half time and we are better away from home so why not? We have to come out and attack. If we do then who knows? If we can be as good as we were in the second half against Forest then we can do it.”
Lee Crowborough, from Brighton, who was also at the Amex on Thursday, agreed.
He said: “In the first 20 minutes we were all over them and then the goal killed us a bit. But it’s only half time. I don’t see why we can’t go up there and do it.”
Albion have been allocated 2,700 seats for the second leg at Derby’s iPro Staidum.
And although they are set to be outnumbered 10 to one, Albion legend Dick Knight backed the travelling support to drown out the home fans.
Speaking from his home yesterday, he said: “There will be 2,700 on Sunday but they will sound like 27,000. The away support this season has been incredible and I will be there with them on Sunday.
“Those who go to the away games are passionate and know their football.
“There will be a tidal wave of noise from before the game willing them on.
“They really can make a difference. You only need to look at the game against Forest where they pretty much willed the ball into the net.”
The former club chairman also called on Oscar Garcia to make use of Albion’s wide players on Sunday.
He said: “I think Solly March and Lua Lua should start as they did against Leicester. They attacked from the off and caused havoc. I was there and we deserved to win 4-1.
“I also think Craig Mackail-Smith should get more of a chance, he looked good on Thursday and should certainly get more than 10 minutes.
“All the pressure is on them, we are very much the underdogs and I think that could help. I think we can do it.”
Former Albion vice chairman and director John Campbell will not be at the game.
However, he does have a good excuse – he lives 6,000 miles away in Cape Town.
Speaking to The Argus, he said: “I am very calm this time which I didn’t feel against Palace last year despite the fact we were favourites.
“I could feel something was not right before the game. This year as underdogs I feel that we are in great hands.”
The former board member moved to South Africa to work as a mind coach. He now works with footballers to teach them how to use their minds positively to improve their performance.
He added: “As someone who understands the mind, I love Oscar Garcia. I like the way he only speaks of the positive all the time in interviews.
“This guy really understands the power of the mind and despite the media trying to get him to speak about negative things he stoically and steadfastly guides it back to the positive.
“He’s quiet and extremely intelligent – that’s what matters in the end.”
Mr Campbell will be watching the game on South African sports channel SuperSport with three coaches he has recently converted.
He compared this year’s campaign to that of 1991.
He said: “I remember how we just sneaked in with the last-minute goal.
“I'll always remember exploding with sheer joy as Dean Wilkins’ left foot curling free kick left the veteran Ipswich goal keeper clutching at air to give us the point we needed.”
He added: “Very few expected us to beat Millwall at home on the Sunday at the Goldstone but we pulverized them with a certain Robert Codner playing out of his skin.
“We then went to the Old Den for the return and it was very hostile. We played well and beat them 2-1 again and made it through to Wembley.
“Let’s hope for more of the same this time round.”