Brighton and Hove Albion 2 – Exeter City 0
By Tim Hodges.
At last! And now the depressing Withdean winter months have passed, Albion have their first home league win since October 13 last year, when Russell Slade’s not so merry men overcame Gillingham.
The fit and well again Glen Murray was the only change from Tuesday’s superb victory against Charlton. He and the back in favour Nicky Forster swapped roles, with the latter replacing young Steve Cook on the bench. Exeter’s first choice Goalkeeper Marriot was injured in the warm up and was replaced by back up keeper Jones.
It was was apparent almost directly from Kick off, that Exeter had made the long slog east for a point.
Their number 50 Marcus Haber, on loan from West Brom, charged about up front almost on his own, and almost detached from the rest of the team, as far away from the midfield support as it is possible to be.
However, this gave the Albion the impetus to build cautiously from the back.
It was again the two wide men Kezenga Lua Lua and Elliot Bennett who were the most productive players on the pitch. Poyet’s current favoured 4-5-1 line up allows a great width in midfield and with both the player’s mentioned possessing great pace, it is a superb attacking weapon.
LuaLua was giving Exeter full back Tulley a torrid time, he was displaying great pace, skill and even a few tricks. Sadly, either by bad luck or poor judgement his final pass more often than not for Murray, just about let him down.
With Brezovan having only a few black headed seagulls for company, save the odd and very brief charge forward by Haber and Stewart, the Albion had Exeter pinned back in their own half for long periods. Any attacking inclination the visitors had was dealt with by Crofts or Navarro before it reached halfway.
From a Bennett cross on the twenty minute mark, and after a scramble in the six yard box, Albion had the ball in the net. Although many will have spotted the linesman’s flag, raised quite a few seconds before hand, for offside. The seagulls were certainly getting a head of steam up, as El Abd in the middle of the penalty area tried to be too precise, and he glanced a great chance wide.
Albion were in control but still patient, this paid off after LuaLua won a corner taken by Dicker.
Tommy Elphick jumped highest to put the Albion one up via the upright. Almost immediately from kick off, Bennett and Murray almost combined, but the move broke down.
Just prior to half time and in a similar position to his goal against Norwich, Bennett forced a great save from Jones in the City goal.
As the half time whistle blew there was a great confidence around the Withdean .
From the restart Exeter began to move the ball around a get in some useful attacking positions but this did not seem to cause Albion’s now establish back four many problems, a long shot from midfield, was the Grecians only effort of note, from their new found attacking policy. Almost as if they had been given a rude re-awakening, Albion stepped up the pressure once more.
A free kick from the Albion left saw a excellent volley from Gary Dicker fly into the top right hand corner, for one of the best Albion goals seen at Withdean for many a year.
To say the Exeter player’s were choosing their seats on the team bus from that moment on, maybe a little harsh. But the reality set in and despite being implored on by Messer’s Tisdale and Perryman, City heads dropped. It was from the bench that one of the more amusing moments of the afternoon occurred. The fourth official went to great pains to get referee Rushtons attention, and after a brief discussion, the ex Spurs cup winning captain, Steve Perryman was sent from the dugout. He ambled off with a couple of stewards in totally the opposite direction to the tunnel and almost in ridicule of his escort’s, kept stopping and watching the match action. Eventually after trying to negotiate a seat in Block V, he sauntered in to the Directors Box.
Back on the pitch Holroyd replaced a tiring Lua Lua, as Albion sought a third goal.
Holroyd did to his credit, get behind the Exeter defence but from wide positions, and never really got a clear sight on goal.
As the game progressed so Inigo Calderon’s attacking capabilities again came to light, he and Bennett provide Albion with a great combination down the right hand side.
As Albion may have taken their collective feet off the gas so the visitors tried to carve out some opportunities, but still apart from the routine, Brezovan had little to do.
Murray seemed to take a heavy fall late on and was replaced by the industrious Hart whose hunger for one last (perhaps) Withdean goal was ever apparent.
In the end the Albion ran out easy winners and were maybe even disappointed not to have improved their goal difference.
Brezovan; Calderon, El-Abd, Elphick, Painter; Bennett, Crofts, Navarro, Dicker, LuaLua; Murray.
Subs: Kuipers, McNulty, Forster, Hart, Carole, Hoyte, Holroyd.
Jones; Tulley, Taylor Edwards,Golbourne;Saunders Harley, Duffey, Salcombe , Stewart; Haber,
Subs: Mcallister Cozic, Logan,Dunne, Bennett Jones,Fleetwood