By Tim Hodges.
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Tranmere Rovers 0
The Albion recorded a superb win at the Withdean Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Beating their opponents by three clear goals, for the second successive home game.
In fact, Gus Poyets men could have had six or seven, but for a series a great saves by Tranmere goalkeeper Luke Daniels late in the second half.
At times, the football the Albion played harked back to the 2001/2002 era, when teams used to come to Withdean expecting to get beaten week in week out.
The seagulls pressured Rovers from kick off. Former Withdean darling Baz Savage appeared to be playing as a lone striker for the visitors. Even in the absence of Lua Lua, Poyet had continued with his interchangeable 451/343 formation, with the diminutive and continually improving Seb Carole hugging one touchline, and Elliot Bennett hugging the other.Although Bennett appeared to have been instructed to cut inside the full back and link up with Murray.
However it was from an attack through the middle that the Albion took the lead, Crofts and Navarro combined well in the centre circle. Crofts launched the ball forward and this allowed Murray to chest down for Dicker who mishit his shot; Murray controlled the loose ball and picked his spot with a superb curling effort past the keeper, to give Albion an early lead.
Tranmere looked crestfallen almost immediately , Albion were certainly not satisfied with a slender advantage. Bennett oozing confidence tried a shot from similar distance to his Oldham wonder goal, but with not quite the accuracy. Carole just off balance blazed just over from the edge of the six yard box. However, on the half hour the man from Monaco raced down the wing and crossed for Crofts who, with an exquisite angled chip put the Albion 2-0 up, and fully in charge.
Tranmere were limited to much huff and puff. Savage tried in vein to hold the ball up and bring his colleagues into play, but Peter Brezovan was largely untroubled for the entire first half.
At half time, there could have been no one in the 6812 crowd who thought that the Albion wouldn’t take all three points.
In fact Albion didn’t even display their occasional lackadaisical period early in the second half, although this was the only time, at this stage, Brezovan got a touch. Claiming well from a couple of rare corners and speculative crosses.
Indigo Calderon was causing Tranmere many problems with his marauding full back antics. The Spaniard continually links up well with Bennett and had a couple of smart interchanges with Navarro.
With 20 minutes left new signing Ashley Barnes replaced Glenn Murray who with a pending ban should he collect a caution, was no doubt being preserved for Thursday night.
Soon after the hard working Seb Carole was replaced with ex England and Premier League star Lee Hendrie. This substitution alone personified just how far the Albion have developed, both in terms of ability and reputation under Gus Poyet.
Tranmere won a free kick, and Brezovan did well tip Robinson’s curling strike over.
Soon after, Rovers on loan Leeds midfielder lost patience with the ease Calderon was able to go, past him, and crudely chopped the Albion fullback down. Referee Paul Taylor had no hesitation in hoisting the red card. Poyet not adverse to a wild gesticulation, almost tried to manhandle the Albion physio onto the pitch before the sponge had permission. Fortunately Calderon got up and seemed to have a had a lucky escape.
With even more advantage and more space, again it was Calderon who exchanged passes with Navarro in the Albion half. The Tranmere born midfielder drilled the ball forward and it ricocheted off the Rovers defence, and fell nicely to Barnes, who seemed to shoot through the keeper Daniels to give Albion a 3-0 lead.
In the dying minutes and stoppage time Hendrie Elphick and Navarro all had half chances to get Albion a forth. Barnes and Bennett and Painter all forced Daniels into smart reflex saves, to keep the score line slightly respectable.
Things are very much looking up at the Albion.
Albion: Brezovan; Calderon, Elphick, El-Abd, Painter; Bennett, Crofts, Navarro, Dicker, Carole; Murray. Subs: Cox, Walker, Virgo, Smith, Hoyte, Hendrie, Barnes.
Tranmere: Daniels; Broomes, McCready, Goodison, Gordon; Welsh, Taylor, McLaren; Curran, Savage, Robinson. Subs: Collister, Mahon, Gornell, Bain, Barnett, Shuker, Labadie.
Referee- Paul Taylor
Attendance – 6812