By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
A Glenn Murray goal halfway through the second half capped a workmanlike performance to give Albion a vital three points and a nine-point gap to third place.
The Amex erupted fully two minutes after the final whistle when news filtered through of Burton Albion’s 97th minute winner at Huddersfield. Albion fans were hugging each other and punching the air.
Albion started nervously, with Chuba Akpom making his full home debut. He appeared to find it difficult to link up with any fluidity with Murray.
In fact Albion’s best two early chances fell to central defenders Uwe Hünemeier and Lewis Dunk. Hünemeier’s shot from an Anthony Knockaert pass would have been the German defender’s first Albion goal.
Albion began to find their way the more that Knockaert became involved. Blackburn keeper Jason Steele saved a Murray overhead kick then, just after spreading himself well to deny Jiri Skalak.
At the other end Marvin Emnes was causing problems. Although Hünemeier was equal to the threat.
Former Albion loanee Craig Conway began attaching Liam Roseniors flank and Charlie Mulgrew began firing in some dangerous corners . One which David Stockdale completely missed another, that looked goal bound and the Seagulls keeper had to tip over the bar.
Albion fans and players alike were getting frustrated with the amount of offside decisions against them. An audible shout from Murray for Chuba to ‘hold’ showed were the problem might lie.
Akpom came out for the second half as Albion appeared to go more direct and central. Skalak seeing more of the ball. But Albion were still being frustrated. Mixed in with brief attacking periods for Rovers. With Elliot Bennett threatening to get behind Pocognoli.
Just before the hour Solly March and Tomer Hemed replaced Skalak and Akpom. Boos from the West Stand as Akpom jogged off where disappointing and undeserved.
Hemed looked sharp and soon he and Murray looked more of a unit.
An unusual passage of play surrounded Dunk as Albion’s main attacking free kick taker. The couple he took both bounced just in front a Steele, who gathered easily. Although the 33/1 odds against Dunk as 1st goal scorer might require further investigation before Tuesday.
Albion’s goal came via an excellent Rosenior cross and sublime Knockaert cushioned header and oppoutunist poachers strike from six yards out from Murray.
The Amex erupted as Murray displayed a calming gesture to the fans in his celebration.
Almost immediately March fed Murray again but this time Steele was equal to it.
March was combining well with Hemed as well. But Hemed could only connect strongly with March’s cross and the effort went wide.
Neither Dale Stephens or Beram Kayal really had to exert themselves. It was only in the latter stages Kayal felt the need to chase loose balls. However both controlled the midfield with simplistic ease.
The last nine minutes including four for stoppages took an age to pass. As Rovers themselves threatened by relegation to the third tier for the first time in over 35 years, mounted a challenge. Liam Feeney and Sam Gallagher both had fair chances as the ball at times ricocheted around Albion’s penalty. area. But despite referee Harrington making it clear to March and Pocognoli after confusion over who was to take a throw in deep in injury time, that he was stopping his watch for every delay. The Sesgulls hung on to a vital win and a precious three points.
Next up for Albion Birmingham on Tuesday 4 April at the Amex.
And in what will be Grand National week the Seagulls will really have to tire like Crisp did, with Red Rum chasing, back in 1973 to miss out on promotion from here.
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