By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Leicester City 0
The Albion beat Leicester City in the last minute of an exciting encounter at a freezing cold Amex Stadium.
And in a parallel scenario to their wins against Doncaster and Nottingham Forest, the last-minute winner was scored by Will Buckley.
However, it was the introduction of former Valencia star Vicente Rodriguez, who came on with just over 20 minutes left, which changed the game for the Albion.
The first half was a fairly average affair. Albion tried to dominate, but Leicester were well marshalled by veteran defender Paul Konchesky.
Albion’s best chance of the half fell to Matt Sparrow, who latched on to a pass from Craig Mackail-Smith. Sparrow appeared to take an extra touch and Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel made a decent save.
Adam El-Abd was getting to grips with both Jermaine Beckford and Danny Drinkwater. The Albion defender and Beckford appeared to have a running battle for the last 20 minutes of the first half.
Leicester were having a go at the Seagulls in an attacking sense as well. Peter Brezovan had to display a safe pair of hands as Konchesky whipped in a cross, though it was mainly routine stuff for the Slovakian keeper.
Up the other end Alan Navarro, who is still to score for the club, headed narrowly wide as Albion gradually began to get on top. Liam Bridcutt then threaded a brilliant pass through to Ashley Barnes who stroked it past the keeper, but sadly the flag was up for offside.
Before the half was out, Leicester had their the best chance so far. But David Nugent headed wide, when finding himself unmarked from a Neil Danns corner.
After ex-Foxes and Seagulls centre half Larry May told us about his work for Albion in the Community during the interval, the match resumed on what was becoming an incredibly cold afternoon.
Then suddenly almost out of nowhere the game sprang to life.
Beckford now clashed with Lewis Dunk and, although it looked innocuous from the stands, the assistant referee flagged enthusiastically to get the referee Andy Woolmer’s attention. After the two had a brief discussion Beckford was sent off for what appeared to be violent conduct.
New boys Sam Vokes and Joe Mattock replaced El-Abd and Navarro. Mattock was wildly booed by the away fans just as he had predicted he would be at last Thursday’s press conference.
Vokes hit a sublime pass to Buckley who sprinted down the wing, then cut inside the defender. But his shot was beaten away by Schmeichel. Buckley then almost shinned the rebound over the bar, with Mackail-Smith pleading for the ball on the edge of the six-yard box.
Soon after Mackail-Smith was replaced by Vicente, a player not seen in an Albion shirt since October.
The Spaniard looked both keen and sharp and it soon became clear that whenever the Albion had the ball it was to be given to Vicente at the earliest opportunity.
The “Dagger”, as he was known at Valencia, was scaring the Leicester defence witless every time he ran at them.
He drops deep and makes every pass he plays look simple. When he runs with the ball he must be one of the most skillful players in England. If he had been constantly fit since September, one doesn’t dare think where Albion could be now.
Incredibly although down to ten men, Leicester were still causing Albion some problems, Brezovan having to get down to a Lloyd Dyer effort.
Albion’s numerical advantage then disappeared as Sparrow lunged at Ben Marshall and got a straight red. Leicester’s captain Matt Mills made such a fuss in front of the referee that he was left little choice other than to dismiss the Albion midfielder who will now miss the 5th round FA Cup tie at Anfield as well as the Leeds and Millwall games.
Leicester seemed to sense that they had a chance soon after and Dyer again tried his luck from distance.
As the game neared the 90-minute mark Inigo Calderon played a pass for Vicente to run on to, taking the ball expertly on his chest, he lofted it across the penalty area, where Buckley smashed it home to put Albion in front.
Vicente showed all his Champions League class, the cross was exceptional and left Buckley with an almost simple task.
During the six minutes of injury time, Gordon Greer and Bridcutt dug Albion out of a goalmouth scramble. Vicente again caused the Foxes massive problems, leaving Danns for dead and forcing the former Palace man to bundle him over and earn himself a second yellow card.
This reduced the Foxes down to eight, as Nathan Delfouneso had just gone off injured and was the last of the Leicester substitutes.
The Albion win again and with a fully fit Vicente Rodriguez could probably beat anyone you put in front of them.
Albion: Brezovan; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, El-Abd; Bridcutt, Navarro, Sparrow; Buckley, Barnes, Mackail-Smith. Subs: Ankergren, Mattock, Vicente, Forster-Caskey, Vokes.
Leicester: Schmeichel; Peltier, St Ledger, Mills, Konchesky; Wellens, Danns, Drinkwater; Dyer, Nugent, Beckford. Subs: Logan, Morgan, Gallagher, Marshall, Delfouneso.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northants)