LOCAL boy Tommy Elphick still wants to play a starring role in Albion’s exciting new era.

But the centre-back from Woodingdean admits he has found life on the subs’ bench pretty tough in recent weeks.

Elphick was back in the spotlight on Saturday and played a big part in a famous FA Cup afternoon.

It was almost as famous as the equaliser he got at Villa Park in last season’s fourth round.

This was a rare 90-minute run out, though, for a player who has been a leading light for the Seagulls and skippered the side in recent seasons.

Elphick has not played a full league game since the previous South Coast derby at Withdean three months ago, when he conceded a wrongly-awarded penalty as Bournemouth nicked a point.

He was replaced by Gordon Greer at Charlton a week later on the day Albion’s season really took off. But he has been a regular in the FA Cup.

“It has been totally frustrating,” Elphick admitted of his weeks on the bench. “It’s the first time I have really experienced it.”

Inevitably his relegation to the sidelines has led to conjecture that he will be off in January. So will he?

“It’s not for me to comment on,” he replied. “I leave that down to the gaffer and the people who work on these things. All I can say is I have got a contract at Brighton, I’m Brighton through and through and why would you want to be anywhere else with what’s happening here?”

There was plenty happening on Saturday. Elphick and sidekick Adam El-Abd started off against Kanu and Dave Kitson, then had Kanu on his own, then saw John Utaka and Dave Nugent come at them.

And, finally, faced an assortment of high balls coming into the box and various black-clad Portsmouth players trying to get on the end of them.

The fact young Tom Kilbey pulled a goal back put a minor dampener on Elphick’s day.

“It’s nice to come away with the victory and a shame we couldn’t keep a clean sheet,” he said.

“There’s room for improvement, I suppose.

“It was a sloppy goal to concede. It was from a long throw-in. We did the same a few weeks ago at Hartlepool and tried to correct it.

“We obviously need to do a bit more work. But I thought it was a great team performance, especially in the first half, and a nice game to come into.”

brian.owen @theargus.co.uk