It has been a turbulent past few games for the Seagulls, games where they have dominated games and haven’t taken the 3 points, and games where they have been dominated and taken 3 points. However, they pushed their luck awfully close on Saturday at home to Preston, who felt that the point they did take away from the south coast wasn’t enough for their fine display of resilient defending, as well as surging attacking which caused Brighton problems all game. Now I’m not one for slating players or the team, but every so often there comes a time in which it does need to be done. The past 2 games have been very tight and a bit too close for comfort, not to mention that we could have lost those games too, had it not been for Bobby Zamora and his lethal left-foot. Saturday’s game was an indication that no team can be taken lightly, something I feel the Seagulls did do. Preston had come off the back of a massive away win at Charlton, and had the confidence of causing another upset, and they have every right to feel the point wasn’t enough; Brighton were totally rubbish, especially in the second half. It brought back unwanted memories of last season, where we would get dominated every game and lose comfortably. Brighton have heavily relied on Dale Stephens and Beram Kayal this season, and for the first game where neither have featured, the midfield was dominated and couldn’t get a full grasp on the game long enough to make an impact. They also missed Stephens for his set-pieces, which haven’t been great, but they have certainly been better that what Jamie Murphy was producing at times. No blame is to be put on Rohan Ince or Andrew Crofts at all, but Chris Hughton really does need to start thinking about the games where he will be without Kayal or Stephens or both. Another concern of mine in which I have brushed aside recently is the plummet of form shown by Tomer Hemed, after such a lightning start to life on the south coast, it has been along the lines of disaster since the penalty miss against Wolves, where he hasn’t found any sort of form, and soon could find himself out of the starting XI if it continues, especially if Zamora keeps scoring. Now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s get on to the match report.
Brighton had started quite brightly, and with a few good chances could have found themselves a goal up, only if Andrew Crofts had found either side of Jordan Pickford after a well-worked free-kick routine. Hemed then blazed over from a tight angle after he was sent through. They came even closer when a swinging free-kick from Murphy eluded everyone and was tipped over the bar by Pickford. To be honest, these were the only real chances Brighton had made throughout the whole game, as Preston became more of a danger as the game wore on. Preston’s 3 at the back were becoming increasingly hard to breakdown, and could have found themselves a goal to the good after half-time when a free-kick from Paul Gallagher wasn’t met by anyone in the box, but fortunately went wide of David Stockdale’s far post. The introduction of Bobby Zamora was clear intent by Chris Hughton that he wanted to go for the win. However, Simon Grayson threw on Joe Garner, and nearly made an instant impact after his header was cleared off the line by stand-in captain Bruno. Garner had another chance, but his shot from a tight angle was easily dealt with by Stockdale. As the game was drawing to a close, Seagulls full-back Gaetan Bong went down clutching his knee, and was later stretchered off with a brace on the knee, which immediately cause concern to all Albion fans. As I said a couple of games ago, there will be games where we felt we should have gotten 3 points and only came away with 1, well this game was the exact opposite, as we should of came away with none, but held on for a point. I’m hoping that Hughton will realise what went wrong Saturday, and correct it in time for the visit to Reading.
Stockdale (7); Made some good saves, most notably from Garner but had a fairly easy afternoon where shots were very little.
Bruno (7); Another good game from the stand-in captain, got forward well and got back when needed. Will defiantly be needed to do the job more often, if Bong is out for a substantial amount of time.
Hunemeier (7); Seemed shaky at times, and looked like Jordan Hugill had the better of him for a majority of the second half. However, he prevented him from creating anything clear-cut.
Dunk (6); Like Hunemeier he also had a bit of a tough time with Eoin Doyle, then Joe Garner. Little bit unsure whether to include him in the starting XI when all 3 centre backs are fully fit, as he has looked a little fragile.
Bong (7); Harsh on, what for me, is player of the season thus far. He got forward when he could and created chances for the 2 strikers. Wishing him the best of luck with his recovery, and hope to see him back on the pitch soon.
Rosenior (6); A up and down day for the former Hull man. He was superb in the first, very quiet in the second, and was replaced by March to add that extra bite to the Seagulls attack.
Crofts (6); First start for the Welshman since suffering that ACL injury last October, and looked comfortable for the first 30 minutes or so, but as Preston grew into the game it became increasingly difficult for him to provide any chances for the frontmen.
Ince (5); Some might think the 5 is a little harsh. For me he wasn’t sharp enough and Preston at times made it easy to pass around and through him. He had a very quiet game on his first start of the season, and not sure if he turned up or not.
Murphy (7); Returned to the starting XI after suspension, and looked very good. Had a cross-shot saved by Pickford from an out swinging free-kick, and hassled the Preston defence a majority of the time.
Baldock (7); A non-stop running machine, he reminds me of Mackail-Smith at times with his engine-like ability, and he put Preston’s defence under pressure a lot of the time; not to mention hassling Pickford enough times for most of his kicks to go astray.
Hemed (6); As mentioned above in the report, it seems he has gone off the boil a little. I think the only thing that will get him out this slump is a goal; penalty or 25 yard screamer it doesn’t matter, just a goal and hopefully that will re-kindle the form we saw for the first few games.
Zamora (6); Playing against 3 defenders as a lone striker is really tough, and this was no exception. They stopped him from making it a hat-trick of winners, although he never really had a chance to grab one.
March (6); Has done really well in the previous 2 games, but needed this rest. Came on lively and changed the game for a moment, but not much creation in the final third something he needs to work on.
Holla (N/A); Came on to help see the game out, bit of a strange decision for me as he had Goldson or Calderon to do the same job on the bench too.
Brighton - Preston