Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Notts County 0
By Rich Hook at Withdean
A sixth straight victory left Brighton ten points clear at the top of League One with just ten games to go, including tomorrow’s clash with relegation candidates Swindon.
But manager Gus Poyet insists that the team “has achieved nothing until promotion is achieved”.
A second-half strike by man-of-the-match Inigo Calderon was enough to earn a 1-0 victory over Notts County at the Withdean on Tueday (22 March).
Paul Ince’s side put up a tough fight against an Albion side playing their third game in ten days but ultimately Albion’s passing style was enough to break them down.
The performance impressed Poyet who said: “We really controlled the game tonight with our passing.
“People will look at the number of shots and say this was a tight game but anyone here will have appreciated how we used the ball intelligently and took our chance when it came.”
Albion started with their now-trademark slick passing, and Chris Wood fired just wide from a Calderon cross inside four minutes.
Elliott Bennett showed the form that recently won him FourFourTwo’s League One Player of the Year.
He created chances for Glenn Murray, whose volley was well saved by Stuart Nelson, and Wood, whose header was tipped over.
The sole black-spot on the night was the injury to Adam El-Abd, who limped off with a hamstring problem in the 43rd minute.
Poyet said the injury “was not too serious” and the defender should return after one or two games.
Albion scarcely missed him in this game as Tommy Elphick deputised effectively, and Notts County’s first real chance didn’t come until the 45th minute.
David Martin weaved through the defence but saw his shot saved by Casper Ankergren.
County started the second half brighter, but the game changed when Poyet brought on in-form Craig Noone.
A nice move released Noone on the left, whose cross seemed to evade everyone in the middle, but Calderon slid in at the back post to give Albion the lead.
The win never really looked in doubt from then, with few chances created.
Francisco Sandaza and Matt Sparrow went close for Albion, and a couple of late free-kicks for Notts County had home fans holding their breath.
But Albion held on for another win and a fourth straight clean sheet.
After the game Poyet praised the contribution of Calderon, and the attitude of the squad as a whole, saying: “Calderon showed how good a player he can be.”
“There are plenty of things he does better than many other pros.
“He can definitely play at a higher level, even Premier League.
“But the most important thing is the spirit of the whole group.
“There is always someone ready to step up.”
Ince said there was “little gap between the top team and ourselves on the night”.
But it looks increasingly likely that there will be a whole division between the teams at the end of the season.