At the 14th time of asking, Brighton finally won a game by more than a goal advantage, after a clinical and exciting game on Friday night against Brentford. It was no more than what Chris Hughton’s men deserved; they were dominant, creative and ruthless, something which they may have been lacking in the past couple of months. Although Brentford were quite poor, and it could of been more than just the 3 goals, take nothing away from the players who worked themselves to death to win a very important game. Important, because it set the tone for the weekend for the other promotion rivals; with 3 of them dropping points on Saturday afternoon. Although it was a team effort, 2 players stood out from the rest; Jamie Murphy and Anthony Knockaert. Both were exceptional and both were rewarded for their efforts with goals. Murphy had his best Albion game by far, and Knockaert continued to wow the fans with another sizzling display. Knockaert is fast becoming an Albion favourite already, with 24 of 29 people who took part in a poll on Facebook, concluding they would rather have Knockaert than a fully fit Vicente.
After a fast-paced start to the game, Brentford had a great chance to score early on; Lassa Vibe picked up the ball on the right wing, before crossing it into the box for the oncoming Alan Judge, who’s half-volley was brilliantly saved by David Stockdale. Brighton had the next chance to open the scoring; a cross from Murphy was too deep for Knockaert, but it found its way to Bruno who struck the ball hard and low, only for it to be cleared off the line and on to the bar by Harlee Dean and away to safety. Brighton did score on the next chance; Knockaert intercepted a loose pass on the outside of the Brighton box, and broke away before passing wide to Murphy. Murphy kept the ball in and played the ball back to Knockaert, who’s touch was slightly heavy, but it ended up benefitting him as he took it around 2 defenders, before powering the ball into the far bottom corner, with the help of David Button’s hands. Moments later, Tomer Hemed could of doubled the lead when he was played through by fellow countryman Beram Kayal, but he could only put his shot into the side netting. Brighton did double their lead before half-time however, and Hemed did take this chance. After, what looked like a training ground free-kick routine, Knockaert played the ball short to Kayal, who jinked his way to the byline before putting in a cross which Hemed met gracefully, and headed into the corner, leaving Button rooted to the spot. Half-time came around, and so did a Brighton change; James Wilson on for Bobby Zamora, and it was Wilson who fashioned the next chance. Murphy did well to keep the ball after being pressured on the wing, he played the ball to Wilson, who drove at the Brentford defense, before crossing the ball for Knockaert, who’s volley was just over the bar. Brentford could of halved the lead, only if John Swift had prodded home the ball, after Stockdale touched the ball away from a corner, but Swift’s shot was blocked by Wilson which went out for another corner. Brighton sealed the win with a goal in stoppage time; Andrew Crofts picked up the ball from Dale Stephens, before setting Murphy away through on goal; although he was 1-on-1 he kept his cool and slotted the ball home past Button, who did get a faint touch on the ball as it went in off the post. The final whistle was met with cheers,as Brighton picked up their 3rd win on their trot, and tighten the pressure on the promotion rivals.
Stockdale (7); Not called into action a lot, but made the save at 0-0 from Judge.
Bruno (7); Had a relatively easy night, not much defending and was always up to support attacks.
Goldson (7); Cool and calm on the bal, and looked very solid; might had done enough to keep Greer out the squad.
Dunk (7); After some howlers in the past few months, he hasn’t put a foot wrong recently. Kept Vibe out well, and was on his toes to snuff out any danger.
Ridgewell (7); Quiet in the first half, but more lively in the second, especially when supporting Murphy.
Knockaert (9); Outstanding performance from the Frenchman; difficult to keep quiet and made Jake Bidwell’s night a living hell.
Kayal (7); Great performance from him; made the assist for Hemed, and was always looking to get the ball and start attacks.
Stephens (6); A little quiet from him, but was always an option when Brighton wanted to attack.
Murphy (9); His best performance by far in a Brighton shirt; just like Knockaert he made his marker, Maxime Colin’s, night long and horrifying. The question is, can he do it again next week?
Zamora (6); Not involved in the first half, and was subbed for Wilson at half-time.
Hemed (8); Got his first goal since early December, and looked like a goal threat every time he had the ball.
Wilson (7); Great introduction of the Man Utd loanee; was hard to mark, and made some nice chances, the most notable one when Knockaert volleyed over.
Crofts (7); On for Hemed, and made the job in midfield look easy; great passing, especially with the assist, and was quick to extinguish any threat Brentford posed.
Sidwell (6); Back for his second debut, the ‘ginger Pirlo’ didn’t really have much affect on the game, but it’s 12 minutes more than he would of gotten had he still been at Stoke.
Brighton - Brentford; Knockaert (27), Hemed (43), Murphy (90+3)