By Tim Hodges
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Swindon Town 1
Albion will think themselves unlucky and rightly so. The Seagulls dominated long periods of this match, almost from kick off, the ever improving Kezenga Lua Lua, had a chance to put Albion ahead, but it was deflected wide. Albion kept the Swindon defence well occupied in the early stages of the first half. Swindon however had their moments of inspiration. Pericard and Austin forming an almost laboured, but potentially potent partnership up front. Within the first fifteen minutes Swindon goalkeeper Lucas was replaced by former Crawley stopper Phil Smith. A miss place pass by Navarro and an defensive error by El Abd allowed the visitors two good chances which both Marshall (who had replaced Pericard) and Austin failed to give Swindon the lead with. Apart from these brief flurries from the Wiltshire men it was all Albion. It is almost becoming a cliché to say both Bennett and Lua Lua were instrumental in all Albion’s best attacking moves. A Bennett cross from the right allowed Murray to chest the ball down only for Crofts fierce drive to whiz narrowly wide.
A while later and from another Bennett centre Murray angled a super header which Greer hooked away from under the crossbar.
Lua Lua’s incredible pace was unnerving both Cuthbert and Greer as he ran at them time and time again. His final ball is now penetrating the opposition penalty area. Sadly Albion’s attacking players were not able to finish the job off.
Not for the first time this season Albion went in level at half time, despite pinning their opposition back for long periods.
Again, as per many games at Withdean this season, the Seagulls allowed the visitors to come at them early in the second half. Swindon seemed to be penning the Albion back in the final third and Austin created a chance, that saw Brezovan make a great save down to his right. Just as the Albion were finding an attacking foothold, El Abd completely missed an interception although Austin could only find the side netting from the resulting shot. It was from this incident onwards that the Albion had their best period a series of free kicks and crosses from Lua Lua and Bennett provided most notably Murray, but also Dicker good scoring chances they failed to take. Both the wide men then had chances Bennett shooting high and wide, when he had more time than he thought. Poyet clearly felt all Albion’s possession warranted another body up front. Holroyd replaced the out of sorts Navarro.
Lua Lua was now making things happen from a more central role but still Albion could not find the elusive opening goal.
They paid the price with fifteen or so minutes left. A rare sortie forward saw the Robins accurate passing out of defence, allow Marshall to cross for McGovern, who stroke the ball to Austin, who in turn slotted it past the advancing Brezovan and in to the net, for 1-0.
Almost immediately Forster replaced Painter, but despite three up front the Albion never really had a clear chance to equalize, save Lua Lua’s superb mazy run and fierce shot which Smith saved well.
Swindon had a couple of chances to finish Albion off on the counter attack, but this was a match, that had it been a boxing encounter all three judges would have had Albion well ahead on points. If of course points meant possession.
Albion: Brezovan; Calderon, Elphick, El-Abd, Painter (Forster 75); Bennett, Navarro (sub Holroyd 71), Crofts, Dicker, LuaLua; Murray. Subs not used: Hart, McNulty, Carole, Hoyte, Walker.
Swindon: Lucas (sub Smith 13); Darby, Cuthbert, Greer, Sheehan; McGovern, Douglas, Ferry, Ward (sub Easton 46); Pericard (sub Marshall 33), Austin. Subs not used: Timlin, Ritchie, Amankwaah, Jean-Francois.
Referee: G Hegley
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