By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Doncaster Rovers 0
The Albion ground out a win against relagation threatened Doncaster this afternoon (Saturday 8 February) at the Amex.
Solly March was the star for the Seagulls on a frustating afternoon, creating chance after chance for the Seagulls’ front men Leo Ulloa and new signing David Rodriguez.
March was Albion’s main attacking threat, in one move weaving his way through the Rovers defence and flicking a ball back into the penalty area which managed to elude at least six Albion players.
The Seagulls were dominant for at least a 15-minute period but, as much as Rovers couldn’t get out of their half, the Albion couldn’t get a decent shot in on goal.
Rodriguez, playing wide, appeared to want to drift into the middle but this caused Albion to be too compact in the centre of the pitch.
The new signing from Celta Vigo did, however, provide a cross which Ulloa, off balance, headed high and wide.
Ulloa then himself had a shot from distance, which Sam Johnstone, on loan from Manchester United in the Rovers goal, held well.
One of the most exciting moments of the first half occured when Seagulls full back Stephen Ward lofted a back pass to Tomasz Kuszczak who had to scamper backwards to his goal to control the ball.
James Coppinger and Billy Sharp each had a half chance for Doncaster before half time but it was March who was the most effective player on view as he twisted and turned his way through the Rovers defence.
In the second half Albion found themselves kicking towards the Amex south goal after half time for the first time since beating Huddersfield last season.
Bruno was finding space as he pushed up from full back and with March and Rodriguez in support was able to place some useful through balls to set Albion away in attack.
Albion though were just a little shot shy. This allowed Doncaster to make some useful measured attacks down the flanks. One of these saw a cross from Coppinger headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box by an unmarked Bill Sharpe.
This let-off sparked Albion into life a little more and, from an Orlandi corner, Ulloa forced Johnstone to push a fierce shot away.
Albion were getting back on top but when the ball broke lose to Ulloa in the penalty area he seemed to side-foot his shot straight to Johnstone.
March was still tormenting Rovers but was now in a more central role and with Kazenga LuaLua, replacing Orlandi, Albion had a bit more pace.
And it was a LuaLua cross that Ulloa tapped in from close range, only for the second week running to be flagged for offside and the goal to be ruled out.
But it was LuaLua feeding Ward, and the Irishman’s pinpoint cross, that saw Ulloa power a header past Johnstone, finally putting the Albion in front on 75 minutes.
LuaLua got clear again soon after the restart but was well tackled by Paul Keegan.
Rovers’ attacking threat was all but snuffed out when Sharpe clashed with Albion captain Gordon Greer. Sharpe, who holds the distinction of being the first player to score a competitive goal at the Amex, was shown a straight red.
Doncaster tried to muster an effort in the last few minutes but Albion were now a goal up and a man up.
LuaLua, as hard working as ever, teed up David Lopez, on as a sub for Rodriguez. Spanish Dave hit a fantastic first-time shot with the outside of his boot which flew inches wide.
Apart from Kuszczak appearing to jolt his back as he fell after taking a goal kick, Albion held on to the lead comfortably.
They now take on Leeds United at the Amex on Tuesday (11th Feb) in another vital fixture which could see them go within one point of the play-offs.