By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Preston North End 0
Albion were held to a goalless draw by battling Preston who should have won the match in injury time.
The Seagulls were without both the influential Beram Kayal and Dale Stephens, missing through suspension and injury respectively.
The Albion failed to breakdown a resolute Preston defence and failed to muster a single shot on target in the second half.
Unusually the Seagulls found themselves kicking towards the north goal in the first half.
The Seagulls signalled their early intentions from kick off as Sam Baldock ran towards the Preston goal from the off.
But Albion, despite a couple of early corners, were unable to get the early goal they seemed intent on securing.
Tomer Hemed and Baldock both had half chances as Albion pressed Preston into their own half.
Albion’s first real chance of note fell to Jamie Murphy. A well-crafted training ground free-kick nearly worked as Liam Rosenior flicked the ball to the Scot but, sadly for Albion, Jordan Pickford pushed away Murphy’s fierce drive.
Albion had the bit between their teeth. Bruno Saltor, again captain, in Gordon Greer’s absence, was patrolling the touchline and making himself available in attack.
Another Murphy free-kick caused Preston problems. Uwe Hünemeier got his head to it and Lewis Dunk got a touch but Pickford somehow scrambled it over.
Albion were nearly caught out by a Preston corner. The inswinger was headed goalward by Eoin Doyle but Stockdale parried it away.
Hünemeier was clattered into by Stevie May. The German required some fairly lengthy treatment while Conor Goldson warmed up.
May then got clear for Preston and had a good effort saved by Stockdale.
Albion’s lack of efforts on goal in the second half prompted Chris Hughton to replace Hemed with Bobby Zamora with half an hour still to play.
Zamora’s one real chance was charged down soon after he took to the field.
Preston grew in confidence as the half went on. With around 20 minutes to play the Lillywhites looked like the more likely victors.
Albion were struggling to clear their lines and as Murphy miskicked, Daniel Johnson crossed for Joe Garner who saw his looping header cleared from underneath the crossbar by Bruno.
Danny Holla made a rare appearance for Albion as a substitute for Murphy with ten minutes to play.
Stockdale foiled Garner who had got in behind Dunk as Albion looked to hold on.
But it was an injury to Gaetan Bong that will cause most concern. The Cameroon international was stretchered off in the last minute of normal time, which led to eight minutes being added for stoppages.
With the clock ticking down, Joe Garner found space and time in the Albion penalty area but his free header – the best chance of the match to break the deadlock – sailed over the bar.
Albion stay top after a fairly dour affair.
Perhaps the most exciting action came after the match as rumours of Jose Mourinho’s possible dismissal from Chelsea and that a certain Gus Poyet is expected to be announced in a new managerial position tomorrow (Sunday 25 October) circulated the lounges and concourses.
Albion will be back in action against Reading next weekend.