As most expected, the away game at Birmingham was tense and left supporters on a knife-edge for most of the match. However, Brighton managed to overcome tenseness and pick up a invaluable 3 points, which has now moved them within 2 points of leaders Burnley. They didn’t make it easy from themselves, but when do they ever, giving Birmingham a few chances to go away with a share of the points, especially in the dying moments of the game.
Brighton created the first chance of their game, when a Jiri Skalak corner was whipped in to the box, and after a goalmouth scramble and some nervous blocks from the Blues defenders, Skalak ended up shooting into the side netting after it fell to him on the edge of the box. Birmingham did take the lead through their first real chance; after some quick play on the edge of the Albion box they knocked the ball wide to Jaques Maghoma, who’s shot was parried by David Stockdale into the path of the oncoming Kyle Lafferty, who tucked the ball home to give them a 1-0 lead. Maghoma was involved in the next Blues chance, after he was put through by Jon Toral, he cut the ball back to Toral who was waiting on the edge of the box but he hit hit low, hard drive wide of the Albion goal. Brighton, who looked extremely vulnerable from set pieces Saturday, must of taken a page out of Burnley’s book, as they used a set-piece to get themselves back in the game; a Skalak free-kick was curved into the box, and Connor Goldson rose highest to nod the ball into the far corner from 18 years out, past the diving ex-Albion keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, for his first Albion goal. Brighton livened up after the half-time break, and they took the lead from another set-play; Skalak sent an inviting corner in to the box, and Lewis Dunk had some space to power home a header into the corner, with Kuszczak only able to watch. Tomer Hemed nearly got in on the act too, as he attempted an outrageous overhead kick, which was outstandingly saved by Kuszczak, after Bruno cut inside and chipped a ball into Hemed’s path. Another Skalak corner caused confusion inside the Birmingham box, and Dunk was nearly gifted another goal, but he couldn’t direct his header on target. Liam Rosenior sent in a deep cross from the left wing, which Bruno cut back across for the waiting Hemed, but Johnathan Spector was quick enough to cut it out at the last moment. Toral almost scored a freak goal moments later; his cross, targeted for Clayton Donaldson, was deflected of Rosenior and spun up into the air, which had Stockdale flapping at the ball but he managed to get an important hand to it, to prevent Birmingham getting level. Sub Jamie Murphy nearly put the game to bed when he cut inside and drove into the box, but his goal-bound shot was blocked by Michael Morison. James Wilson could of made it 3, after Kuszczak went up for a corner in the 94th minute, the ball was cleared to him and with only Stephen Gleeson to beat, his shot was saved by the foot of Gleeson as it spun off towards the corner flag. After a few minutes of playing with the ball in the corner, Brighton were relieved to hear the final whistle, which meant they moved closer to leader Burney with 6 games to go.
Stockdale (6); Slightly at fault for their goal, and made a meal out of the deflected Toral cross, but other than that he was largely a spectator.
Bruno (7); Got forward at every chance he had, and looked dangerous. Defensively solid.
Goldson (8); Very good header to score his first Albion goal; largely untroubled until closing stages.
Dunk (8); Superb header for the winner, and had a fairly easy evening when marking Lafferty then Donaldson.
Rosenior (6); Gave it his all as you would expect, but with no help for LuaLua defensively he looked vulnerable, which Maghoma exploited.
Skalak (8); Fans have given him stick recently, but his last 2 performances show why you should stick to players adapting to a new country. Crosses were inch perfect every time and was rewarded with 2 assists.
Kayal (7); Strong in midfield, sometimes looked a little shaky but stayed focus and got the job done.
Sidwell (7); Some questioned his involvement from the start last night, but he certainly shut them up with a good all-round display, whether it be supporting Hemed or helping the midfield.
Stephens (7); Was more in a defensive midfield role for this game, and made sure nothing went through the middle of the pitch.
LuaLua (6); First start and first game for a while now, so obviously he didn’t set the standards we know he can set, but will be valuable of the closing stages of the season.
Hemed (7); Tough night being the lone striker, but he held the ball up well and made chances when players pushed up to support him; unlucky with his overhead kick
Murphy (6); Provided good defensive cover for Rosenior, as well as fresh legs for when an attack arose.
Wilson (6); Should of scored when 1-on-1 with Gleeson; gave the central defenders a hard time when he came on as they started to rush things.
BCFC - BHAFC; Lafferty (16); Goldson (29), Dunk (49);
Att; 16,143 (1,269 Brighton)