By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Ipswich Town 2
Albion held their nerve to beat high-flying Ipswich with three sensational goals. Two of them came from Joao Teixeira and one – his first at the Amex – came from Sam Baldock.
Baldock scored on 19 minutes. Having received the ball from Joe Bennett, Baldock fired an angled drive which swerved past Bartosz Bialkowski in the Ipswich goal.
Minutes later though the tractor boys were level. Daryl Murphy nipped in between Joe Bennett and Gordon Greer to prod the ball past the helpless David Stockdale.
Chris Hughton made wholesale changes to the line up from the previous defeat to Brentford. He had no choice about some. In came Bruno Saltor, Teixeira, Aaron Hughes and Chris O’Grady.
The midfield pairing of Danny Holla and Rohan Ince remains constant and already a recognised feature of Hughton’s set up.
Ince intercepts and creates. Holla tidies up and gets Albion going again.
But it was O’Grady who made Albion tick, holding the ball up brilliantly every time he went forward and always giving the Seagulls a chance to bring others into play.
With five minutes left to play in the first half Teixeira had the ball about 25 yards out and had four Ipswich defenders in front of him. The young Portuguese U21 international beat all four with a drop of the shoulder and a twisting run. His deflected shot put Albion 2-1 in front.
It was one of the great Amex goals so far.
Then right on half time Teixeira seized on a cross from Joe Bennett and fired past Bialkowski from just outside the penalty area to put the Seagulls further ahead at 3-1.
Baldock had a great chance to wrap it up for Albion early in the second half but his shot was saved well by Bialkowski.
Albion weren’t just content to soak up the Ipswich pressure. Ince was again a towering influence – a real box to box midfielder.
O’Grady was scampering around in much the same way as Craig Mackail-Smith does.
However, the Yorkshireman shields, holds up and distributes the ball more effectively than CMS. It could be his last appearance at the Amex. Leon Best’s arrival and O’Grady’s open desire to move back up north could see the former Barnsley striker leave before the end of the transfer window on Monday 2 February.
Ipswich found Albion difficult to break down. Stephen Hunt came on to go up front with Murphy. But it was another substitute, Freddie Sears, who put the visitors right back in the match, sliding the ball under Stockdale.
Even pegged to 3-2 Albion looked comfortable and Ipswich didn’t threaten again except for Murphy’s attempt which he stabbed past Stockdale’s far post with two minutes left.
It was Albion who finished stronger forcing a series of corners and throw-ins during the four minutes of stoppage time.
Albion next take on Arsenal in the 4th round of the FA Cup on Sunday (25 January) at the Amex.
Five things we learnt from Albion’s win against Ipswich Town.
1) Terry Connor is still revered by Albion fans. The ex-Seagulls striker got a polite round of applause as Ipswich left the pitch after their pre-match warm up.
2) Danny Holla is a modern day Neil McNab. McNab played for Albion between 1980 and 1983 and was christened Neil McCrab by Albion fans as he always played the ball sideways or backwards. Holla although, is more effective in his distribution although he seldom plays the ball forward. McNab was famously cup-tied and ineligible for Albion’s cup final appearance, having played for Leeds while on loan in the 3rd round in 1983.
3) Sam Baldock’s celebration after scoring his first Amex goal was to lay down on the pitch.
4) Chris O’Grady appeared to wave goodbye to the Albion fans when substituted, fuelling speculation that he is soon to join Sheffield United.
5) Leon Best looked strong and quick on his Amex debut although a little off the pace and rusty at times.
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