By Tim Hodges at the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Southampton 0
Brighton and Hove Albion thrashed Southampton with their performance of the season at the Amex today.
Jake Forster-Caskey on his full debut and Matt Sparrow (twice), scored for the Albion, as the Amex atmosphere reached fever pitch.
Gus Poyet rang the changes. Casper Ankergren was dropped for the second time this season as Peter Brezovan made his first start of the season.
Steve Cook, recalled from loan at Bournemouth, replaced the suspended Lewis Dunk.
It was a fairly even first half with Albion’s best chance falling to Steve Cook, after Will Buckley got clear of the Saints defence and whipped in a low cross, however he could only drive his shot into the side netting.
As Southampton tried to gain control of the match Do Prado latched on to a cross from Connolly, but scooped the ball over from six yards out.
Albion old boys Harding and Hammond were getting some good natured stick from the Amex faithful. However, Harding lost his head, but was only cautioned for a two-footed lunge at Craig Mackail-Smith.
The Albion sensed his unease and quickly swapped Will Buckley to the right side to run at Harding.
Buckley’s quick-footed skills were too much for the former England Under-21 man and he was extremely fortunate to stay on the pitch as chopped Buckley down.
Albion were unable to capitalise on the resulting free kick, but soon after the uninjured Harding was substituted with five minutes left to play of the first half.
In those remaining five minutes Lambert had an effort cleared off the line by a combination of Greer and Dunk.
All square at half time, the Albion started the second half brightly. Cook made a marauding run down the flank but couldn’t quite pick out Mackail-Smith.
Then just after the 50-minute mark, Ricky Lambert lashed out at Adam El-Abd and the Saints man was immediately sent off.
Albion sensed their chance, Forster-Caskey casually picking up the ball from Matt Sparrow in midfield, hit a swerving 25-yard shot which Davies palmed around the post. From the resulting corner the 17-year-old then headed narrowly wide.
Albion were making the man advantage work, LuaLua was tormenting Richardson and Hoovield, although twice his crosses were just not quite good enough for Mackail-Smith to have a chance to convert.
With the game moving to its final third, LuaLua cut in from the left and unleashed at shot that Davis failed to hold, and Forster-Caskey buried the ball for his first senior goal to send the Amex into frenzy.
Albion were now very much in command with everything going their way, even Vicente was warming up along the touch line.
Sparrow went charging through the middle and was clattered into by Fox, but no penalty was given.
As Albion continued to pour forward Forster -Caskey played a ball square to Matt Sparrow who hit a screamer from full 35 yards, which flew in off the post for 2-0.
Southampton tried to have a go back at the Seagulls, and somehow Cork scooped the ball over from almost underneath the crossbar.
Albion weren’t being silly, they were content to sit back and make Saints work and began to frustrate them.
With five minutes left a corner from Buckley fell to Sparrow on the edge of the six-yard box, he blasted it high into the net to give Albion a 3-0 lead.
Before the end, one small sour note for the Seagulls, as captain Gordon Greer was sent off for violent conduct for lashing out at Forte.
But this performance was a great way for Albion to start 2012.
Albion: Brezovan; El-Abd, Greer, Cook, Taricco; Bridcutt; Buckley, Sparrow, Forster-Caskey, LuaLua; Mackail-Smith. Subs: Ankergren, Hall, Harley, Vicente, Paynter
Southampton: Davis; Richardson, Martin, Hooiveld, Harding; Hammond, Cork, Lallana, Do Prado; Connolly, Lambert. Subs: Bialkowski, Fox, Fonte, Holmes, Reeves
Ref: Andy D’Urso (Billericay)