By Tim Hodges
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Coventry City 1
The super Seagulls ground out a victory at the Amex this afternoon (Saturday 26 November) as they dispatched a hard-working Coventry City.
The Albion appeared to have more fluidity and confidence than of late. After just seven minutes the livewire Craig Mackail-Smith intercepted a back pass and, although his initial shot was well saved by Joe Murphy, the ball ended up in the net via Coventry defender Richard Keogh.
Mackail-Smith’s “goal” sent a real buzz around the Amex and must have been a huge relief to the Scottish international – however it ended up in the net.
The celebrations were short-lived though as from the restart Coventry found themselves level. A cross from the left deep into the box found Gary Gardner, on his first start for the Sky Blues, well placed to steer a header past Casper Ankergren, almost before the keeper had gained his first touch since October.
Albion seemed a little perplexed about quite how this had happened and the Amex crowd all of a sudden became a little more subdued than normal.
Coventry began picking away at the Albion and the early gains made by the Seagulls appeared to be ebbing away, although at every chance the ball was fed to Craig Noone on either the left or right wing.
Coventry ran out of ideas quickly as the half went on. Ryan Harley began to try to drive the Seagulls forward and with Liam Bridcutt effortlessly running Albion’s engine room department winning the ball and tidying up with consummate ease.
It was in fact from a Bridcutt a cross that Romain Vincelot headed home powerfully to restore Albion’s lead. It was the first Brighton goal by the Frenchman who came on for the injured Marcos Painter.
Back in control the Seagulls looked confident again and how referee Gavin Ward didn’t give a penalty for a foul on Billy Paynter was mystifying.
Albion led at half time during which the club became £2 million richer thanks to the foresight of the Football Foundation.
If the Albion had just about bossed the first period, then this was nothing compared to what the Sky Blues threw at them for the second.
But they never managed to get a clear-cut opportunity. Everything they tried was pretty much a hopeful punt, for either Clive Platt or Lukas Jutkiewicz to get on the end of, or long-range efforts from midfield.
Lewis Dunk and Gordon Greer were lapping up most off this and looked composed and with Vincelot popping up almost anywhere, a little David Beckham-esque, the Albion never really looked like they might concede.
A smoke bomb or similar device from the away end added to the growing tension and as the match neared its conclusion Kazenga LuaLua replaced the hard-working Harley.
As ever, when the Albion had it they kept it, not doing anything rash to get it forward, much to the consternation of some fans.
It would be fair to say that Coventry were frustrating themselves more than Albion were doing it for them but in truth apart from that one time, they just couldn’t penetrate during a clever Albion performance.
Albion: Ankergren; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, Painter; Bridcutt, Navarro, Harley, Noone; Mackail-Smith, Paynter: Subs: Brezovan, Vincelot, Hoskins, Barnes, LuaLua
Coventry: Murphy; Christie, Keogh, Crainie, Hussey; Clingan, Thomas, Gardner, Baker; Jutkiewicz, Platt. Subs: Dunn, Bigirimana, McDonald, McSheffrey, Wood.
Referee: Gavin Ward.