By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Birmingham City 1
The Albion lost a league game at the Amex for the first time this season to a win-hungry Birmingham City.
The Blues’ winner was a superb half-volley from Chris Burke, who lashed the ball past the despairing dive of Tomasz Kuszczak on 28 minutes.
Before this the Seagulls had the better chances with Ashley Barnes and Stephen Dobbie both going close.
Wayne Bridge was providing lots of ammunition for Albion’s forwards but no one could get on any of his pinpoint centres.
Jake Butland in the Birmingham goal was a commanding presence and dealt with crosses extremely well. It really shows Albion’s recent progress that a current England goalkeeper was the man they had to beat.
Will Buckley was also getting forward a lot but the Albion appeared to miss the injured Craig Mackail-Smith’s forward runs despite the industry of Stephen Dobbie.
Dobbie looks to come and find the ball from deep and doesn’t always offer the angled runs that Mackail-Smith makes.
The teams went in at the break with Birmingham 1-0 up. The break lasted almost half an hour as the Amex experienced a total floodlight failure.
The substitutes warmed up in the gloom and the match-day stewards scurried around nervously.
We were told that after the power cut that the floodlights needed to ‘power up’ and at about ten minutes to seven they did just that.
And Albion came back out of the traps with all cylinders firing.
But there were no clear-cut chances for the Seagulls as the match ticked past the hour.
Albion had all the play but none of the luck. Dobbie had a looping header that dropped just wide.
Then Gus Poyet tried to change the complexion of the match by introducing David Lopez for Adam El-Abd and appearing to adopt a three at the back policy with Dean Hammond covering the additional centre half position when required.
Lopez gave Albion another and attacking option but none of his cleverly angled crosses were met with any conviction by an Albion player.
Kazenga LuaLua replaced Buckley and the former Newcastle man got into some good positions but the Albion just couldn’t work the ball into a threatening area.
Despite five minutes of injury time and throwing Gordon Greer and Inigo Calderon forward for large parts of it the Seagulls just couldn’t restore parity.
The Albion, however, stay top.
Albion: Kuszczak; Calderon, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge; Bridcutt, Dicker, Hammond; Buckley, Barnes, Dobbie. Subs: Ankergren, Painter, Dunk, Lopez, Harley, LuaLua, Agdestein.
Birmingham: Butland, Packwood, Davies, Caldwell, Robinson; Burke, Spector, Fahey, Elliott, Lovenkrands; Lita. Subs: Doyle, Ambrose, Zigic, Redmond, Hancox, Mullins, King.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands).