Brighton tasted defeat for the first time in 18 games, after they fell at the feet of a rugged Preston side. With their first defeat since early September, they also lost top spot, after Newcastle disposed of Brentford.
Preston were by far the better team, and fully deserved to win the game, and this was a wake up call to anyone who though Brighton could coast towards the finish line; it is far from over.
Callum Robinson had the first chance of the game for the hosts, when he was put through on goal by Jordan Hugill, but his deflected shot was just narrowly wide of David Stockdale’s far post. Shane Duffy had an effort go just over the bar from an Anthony Knockaert free-kick, while Oliver Norwood had a long-range effort go just wide of the far post. Preston did take the lead though moments later, when Paul Huntington headed home a Paul Gallagher free-kick, although it did take a deflection which wrong footed Stockdale. Glenn Murray outmuscled Tom Clarke to race clear on goal, but his tame effort was saved by Chris Maxwell; he could of squared the ball to his strike partner Sam Baldock had he looked up earlier. Murray was in the thick of things again, this time he headed wide after Sam Adekugbe put in an excellent cross, after a good burst forward. Into the second half, and Brighton were given another blow, when Robinson outstrengthed Albion skipper Bruno, and prodded the ball home past Stockdale to double the hosts lead. Duffy had a good opportunity to claw one back, but his header was cleared off the line by Marnick Vermijl. Brighton pressed for a way back into the game, and managed to earn themselves a penalty after Maxwell had brought down sub Jamie Murphy. Regular penalty taker Tomer Hemed stepped up, but his effort was well matched by the Welsh keeper, and was up quick enough to save a rebound from Murphy. The game finished 2-0, and it was a real reality check that no game is going to be a walk in the park, even if you have gone 18 games unbeaten previously. The good news is that they have a chance to redeem themselves on Friday night, and start another long unbeaten run.
Stockdale (6); Didn’t have anything to do other than pick the ball up from the net; spectator all game.
Bruno (5); Let Robinson go, in which he scored the killer second goal. Pretty poor all afternoon too, not much went his way.
Duffy (6); Should of scored at least one; heading over from a Knockaert free-kick, then having one blocked on the line.
Goldson (7); Probably the best player on the pitch; looked pretty solid and did well in the absence of Dunk.
Adekugbe (7); Given his league debut, and looked encouraging. Held of getting forward too much with Horgan’s attacking presence, but didn’t get much support from Skalak.
Knockaert (6); Tried his hardest to get things going on a very slow afternoon, but nothing went his way.
Sidwell (6); Fortunate not to receive a booking in the first half, but had a reletivly good game when it came to controlling possession.
Norwood (6); Passing was of high quality as per usual, but didn’t have the defensive influence needed to support Sidwell at times.
Skalak (5); Struggled to get into the game; crossing was below par and left Adekugbe vulnerable at times before his inevitable departure.
Murray (6); Should of scored on the stroke of half-time, and got himself into dangerous positions but with no reward.
Baldock (6); Spent most of his afternoon chasing the Preston defenders rather than having an impact on the game.
Murphy (6); Introduced for Skalak, and added a dirtiest threat down the left, as well as supporting Adekugbe when Preston continued to attack. Won the penalty also.
Hemed (5); Missed the penalty, although it wouldn’t of made much difference other than reducing the goal difference. Hard to say if he will be on penalty duty after the miss, with Murray always eager to take them.
Kayal (6); Looked eager to get out there, and had some bright moments.
PNEFC - BHAFC ; Huntington (13), Robinson (53);
Att; 11,391 (1,205 Brighton)