Withdean is special place for Yeates

THE Withdean Stadium, the makeshift home of Brighton & Hove Albion, holds a special place in the heart of Mark Yeates.

Carl Marston

THE Withdean Stadium, the makeshift home of Brighton & Hove Albion, holds a special place in the heart of Mark Yeates.

While today promises to be a big day for former Brighton skipper Dean Hammond, who returns to the Withdean for the first time since his January switch to Colchester, it is less well known that Yeates was also an ex-Seagulls player.

U's star winger Yeates actually made his Football League debut at Brighton, as a raw 18-year-old on loan from Tottenham.

The Irishman loved every minute of his time with the Seagulls, although these sentiments will count for nothing as the U's bid to make further progress up the League One table.

“I have some very happy memories of my time at Brighton. It's where I learnt the ins-and-outs of real football,” explained Yeates, who is now 23.

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“I made my League debut at home to Bristol City. We ended up getting thumped 4-2. I played in central midfield that day, and in fact I was in centre mid for my whole time there.

“It was my first real experience of senior football, and it will be nice to go back there. I was only a young lad the first time around. The crowd are a little way away from the pitch, with the athletics track going around it, but it's still a good place to play.

“It was a few years ago now, but I will still be up against a few familiar faces. Of course I know the manager, Micky Adams, from his days at Colchester, and Bobby Booker has returned as a coach. Some of the players are still there as well.

“I also know striker Kevin Thornton (on loan from Coventry) from the Irish set-up (under-21s), and then there's the other old Colchester players,” added Yeates.

In fact, Brighton have some very familiar names in their line-up. Ex-Colchester winger Kevin McLeod should start down the same left flank as Matt Richards.

Consistent left-back Richards is approaching the end of his half-season long loan from Ipswich. The 24-year-old has been ever-present in the league this term, having had two loan stints at Brighton the previous season.

However, another ex-U's player, Adam Virgo, will only be an interested spectator today. He serves a one-match suspension for accruing five bookings.

Yeates believes that the U's can burst into the top half of the table over the next week or so. He insisted: “We have some games coming up that we are fully capable of winning.

“After Brighton, we've got home matches against Leyton Orient and Tranmere, and we'll be aiming for maximum points. We're already on a reasonable run, and we want that to continue,” added Yeates, who is the leading scorer with eight goals from his position on the wing.

Meanwhile, Brighton's leading scorer, Glenn Murray, is poised to return to the starting line-up today. The former Rochdale target man has been in prolific form for the Seagulls since his £300,000 move from Spotland last January.

Murray scored nine goals in 21 appearances during the second half of last season, and has already netted 11 goals this term. He has recently been sidelined with an ankle injury, although he appeared as a substitute in last weekend's 1-0 defeat at Tranmere.

Veteran front-runner Nicky Forster, who used to be on the books of Ipswich, is set to partner Murray in attack. Best known for his days at Birmingham and Reading, the 35-year-old signed for the Seagulls in a £75,000 package from Hull in the summer of 2007.

Forster was a revelation last season, scoring 19 goals in all competitions and also being appointed skipper following Hammond's £250,000 move to Colchester. He has netted seven goals to date this term.

Colchester boss Paul Lambert could well name an unchanged side, following last Saturday's goalless draw against Scunthorpe.

West Ham loanee keeper Jimmy Walker will hope to shrug off a slight calf injury, while striker Steven Gillespie is again set to start from the bench on his continued comeback from a hamstring problem.

Defenders Paul Reid (virus) and Matt Heath (head wound) are also pushing for a return to the squad.


BRIGHTON: Sullivan, Whing, Hinshelwood, Elphick, Richards, Cox, Johnson, El-Abd, McLeod, Murray, Forster, Robinson, Fleetwood, Thornton, Fraser, Loft, Crichton.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Maybury, Baldwin, Coyne, Tierney, Izzet, Hammond, Perkins, Yeates, Platt, Vernon, Gillespie, White, Wordsworth, Jackson, Reid, Heath, Wasiu, Gerken.

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