By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1
The Seagulls lost their opening game of the season to Sheffield Wednesday.
Owls midfielder Giles Coke lofted a 25-yard shot over new £1 million pound plus Seagulls keeper David Stockdale on 40 minutes at the Amex Stadium.
The Seagulls gave debuts to Stockdale, Aaron Hughes, Chris O’Grady and, to the surprise of many, Shamir Fenelon.
O’Grady and Fenelon were Sami Hyypia’s preferred pairing up front and, with Bruno Saltor operating as a frequently attacking wing back, Albion looked comfortable and had plenty of early possession.
Bruno found himself free in the Wednesday penalty area once or twice but appeared to have neither the confidence or willingness to shoot.
Fenelon and O’Grady combined well but neither wanted to take responsibility around goal and both were restricted to half chances.
Kazenga LuaLua had Albion’s best chance of the first half but Owls keeper Kieran Westwood smothered his shot well.
Aaron Hughes also looked very comfortable at the back with captain Gordon Greer. Hughes has superb distribution which will how hopefully benefit Albion this season.
Wednesday, with the huge Atdhe Nuhiu up front, were beginning to put some smart attacking play together, with Jacques Maghoma and former Albion loanee Joe Mattock on the overlap, also as a wing back.
But it was Giles Coke five minutes before half time, after good link-up play from Mattock and Maghoma, who almost chipped the ball over the despairing Stockdale to put Wednesday ahead and send the impressive 2,500 Owls fans wild.
So at half time the Seagulls had the most possession, looked assured at the back, had one or two scoring chances but had nothing to show for it and were 1-0 down.
Ground hog season? Hopefully not , but with just four minutes of the second half gone Andrew Crofts became the first Albion player sent off this season after a rather reckless lunge on Sam Hutchinson.
Inigo Calderon was sent off for Albion in their second game last season and a few years back Gordon Greer was dismissed on his debut, against Rochdale in 2010, at Withdean.
Crofts could now miss three matches .
Wednesday could have finished Albion off soon after as the Seagulls tried to regroup.
Greer did show a captains mettle by driving forward at any opportunity, just failing to get on the end of LuaLua’s cross with only Westwood to beat.
Wednesday were beginning to look content just to soak up the pressure as Will Buckley and Kemy Agustein replaced Forster-Caskey and Fenelon respectively on the hour.
Albion’s best chance to equalise fell to O’Grady from a Buckley centre but Westwood saved a rather tame shot and pushed it behind for a corner from around 10 yards out. Soon after Greer was muscled out when in a good position and his shot was deflected wide.
Craig Mackail-Smith replaced Calderon with 15 minutes left , but with two up front and plenty of crosses from LuaLua and Buckley, Albion looked toothless and it was Wednesday and Maghoma who had the best chance for the second goal of the game.
Augustien had the chance to roam and disprove his doubters but did little to achieve this, giving the ball away more often than not after a step over or two.
As Albion ran out of ideas the game slipped away quietly. Even the generous five minutes added time didn’t inspire the Seagulls or Sami Hyypia, who appeared to disappear down the tunnel at full time without acknowledging Albion’s fans – something his predecessor was always keen to do whatever the result.
Next up for Albion are Cheltenham Town at the Amex on Tuesday (12 August) in the Capital One League Cup.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.