Brighton pounced on Newcastle’s slip up at home to Bristol City, to re-claim top spot in the Championship, before their crunch match with the North-East club on Tuesday night. Brighton made light work of a Reading side, who didn’t play up to their potential, and will now most certainly have to do it the hard way to get promotion to the Premier League, with the gap to 2nd place Newcastle 12 points and having played a game more.
The first half began in an energetic fashion with Brighton keen to get on the front foot early. In the third minute, Knockaert came close to scoring for the hosts as he cut onto his left foot and curled his effort wide. Baldock came up with superb curler which nearly went in; on the left flank, he drifted inside, leaving Paul McShane on the floor, before bending his strike towards the top right corner which cracked off the woodwork. Reading’s best chances would come simultaneously with a powerful header from Danny Williams clutched on to by David Stockdale before Roy Beerens had a shot three yards from goal which the Brighton goalkeeper had to save with his feet. With Reading starting to find their footing in the match, it would be the Seagulls who would go a goal in front. Bruno played a lovely floated ball over the Reading backline which Baldock read excellently, staying onside. The 27-year-old brought the ball down with an excellent first touch before smashing his effort past Ali Al-Habsi to give Brighton a deserved opening goal. Knockaert almost doubled the lead in the 41st minute but his drilled shot towards the near post was kept out by Al-Habsi’s left foot. Reading came very close to scoring an equaliser in the 55th minute when Shane Duffy blocked a goal-bound header from Williams off the line. And seconds later, Beerens executed a fine move around Bruno before hitting a low strike just wide of the post. But just one minute later Brighton secured their win through Murphy, who finished off a counter-attacking move by coolly chipping the ball over Al Habsi. Glenn Murray had a goal chalked off before Knockaert missed a sitter from close range into the side netting. But the Frenchman would get his reward for his efforts. Another counter-attack from Brighton led to a three-on-one situation, with Murphy picking out Knockaert who slotted his strike into the top corner. Despite Reading showing more encouraging signs of a fightback in the final ten minutes, the game would end 3-0 with the Seagulls securing one of their most significant wins of the season.
Stockdale (7); Saved a low shot from Beerens, but a quiet night for the Albion stopper.
Bruno (8); Fantastic, composed performace defensively against a tricky player in McCleary, and a sublime ball over the top to find Baldock for the first goal.
Duffy (8); Alert and aware when he cleared William’s goal-bound header off the line, and limited Kermongant to very little.
Dunk (7); Fairly good night for him, couple weak moments but not everyone has perfect games each week.
Pocognoli (7); Was aware the Gunter was going to attack the wing at all times, but was generally solid against him and wing partner Beerans.
Knockaert (8); When he produces quality, so do Brighton it seems; another top notch game, capped off with his 11th of the season at the end.
Stephens (7); Not at his best, but fortunately didn’t have to as Reading were worse in midfield. Nice first-time pass to send Murphy away for his goal.
Sidwell (7); Starting to develop a good partnership with Stephens, looked comfortable on the ball and was keen to get forward.
Murphy (9); After a below-par performance last weekend, he was given the nod this week and boy did he grab it with both hands. Stretched Reading’s defence as well as a wonderful chipped goal and an assist for Knockaert’s.
Baldock (8); In superb goal-scoring form right now, and another brilliant goal to add to the collection; the touch was world-class to bring it under control, bit of luck in controlling it, but still had the composure to put it past Al-Habsi with McShane baring down on him.
Murray (7); Not a good night personally, but was hard at work for the team with some good running. Slightly offside when he vollied in Bruno’s cross at 2-0.
Hemed (6); Last 10 minute run-out for the 13 goal man.
Tomori (N/A); Replacement for the injured Pocognoli.
Akpom (N/A); On to give Baldock a much needed rest.
BHAFC - RFC ; Baldock (35), Murphy (56), Knockaert (80);