Brighton took to the summit of the Championship, with a comfortable win over a dismal QPR. The Seagulls took full advantage of Newcastle’s slip up on Boxing Day to head top of the league at the halfway point of the season; the team top at halfway has gone on to secure automatic promotion in each of the last 8 seasons.
Brighton started lively, and were soon infront thanks to a moment of brilliance from Sam Baldock. Dale Stephens slipped in Baldock, after the ball had ricocheted off of Glenn Murray, and Baldock took the ball past Nedum Onuoha with a superb first touch, and struck the ball sweetly into the top right corner, giving Alex Smithies no chance. QPR responded with a nice bit of play after the restart, and David Stockdale was tested by a close-range Massimo Luongo effort, but the Albion stopper kept out the shot at the expense of a corner. Murray missed a glorious chance to double the lead, when he put his free-header wide of the target with the goal gaping in-front of him, after Shane Duffy nodded the ball back across goal from a Oliver Norwood corner. Idrissa Sylla came close to equalising when his near-post shot almost caught out Stockdale, but was denied by the leg of the Seagulls keeper. Brighton started the second half brightly and were soon on top of QPR; Solly March having an effort well saved by Smithies, after ghosting into the box. Brighton did double their lead through Murray, when he converted a penalty after Stephens had been brought down by Luongo inside the area; the Albion top scorer placing the ball to Smithies right, with the keeper rooted to the middle of the goal. Onuoha was sent off moments later, after he was alleged to have stop Baldock having a clear run at goal; replays show it was a harsh decision with the two players only coming together shoulder-to-shoulder. Brighton took full advantage, and made it 3-0 when Anthony Knockaert jinked inside on to his left foot, and shot a low drive under Smithies. From then on it was almost like a training ground exercise, with Brighton holding most of the possession, and seeing the game out comfortably. 3-0 the final score and Albion now have the chance to end the year on top of the table.
Stockdale (7); Made some crucial saves from Luongo and Sylla, but was rarely called into action for much of the game.
Bruno (7); Soild at the back, and made some terrific runs forward, which helped Knockaert with his game.
Duffy (7); Rarely looks like he’s going to be beaten in the air, and was generally sound against the QPR attack.
Dunk (7); Couple of chances from corners, but had a pleasing afternoon at the back with little trouble.
Bong (7); Looked solid and combined with March very well, looked back to his best, just in time for a possible departure to The African Cup of Nations.
Knockaert (8); Another well-taken goal. Was good defensively against Bidwell, and gave him headaches all afternoon.
Stephens (7); Played his part in the opening goal, and got through a lot of work in the middle of the park.
Norwood (7); Created many chances with his incredible vision and passing ability, as well as doing his job defensively.
March (7); Looked threatening, but had a tough time against Perch. Plenty more to come from him.
Murray (8); Missed a glorious chance, but made amends later on in the game. Did his bit when defending set-pieces too.
Baldock (9); Another fine game from him; clinical finish and gave the struggling Onuoha the run around for much of the game, before his departure.
Murphy (6); Introduced for March as he returns from injury.
Hemed (6); Brought on to give Murray a well-deserved rest.
Skalak (6); Late introduction for Baldock.
BHAFC - QPRFC; Baldock (11), Murray (53pen), Knockaert (69); Onouha (57; RED);