Setting the scene
Brighton were yet to win coming back from an international break this season and had enjoyed a mixed March, winning and losing two of their games in the third month of the year. Visitors Blackburn meanwhile were unbeaten under new manager Tony Mowbray who had won two and drawn seven of his games in charge as he looked to lead Rovers out of the relegation zone. An easy game this may have looked on paper but football isn’t played on paper as we know too well.
Two weeks off is generally a good thing in terms of getting injured players back to fitness. Only Brighton and Hove Albion could return from a fortnight without a game with a worse injury crisis than they started the international break with, all involving players who hadn’t actually played for their country. Glenn Murray was carrying a knock but started, Tomer Hemed had a badly swollen ankle but appeared from the bench and Sam Baldock missed out altogether. That meant Chuba Akpom made his first start although in truth we’d have probably been better off playing Baldock in a wheelchair. The defensive injury problems had however abated slightly with Sebastian Pocognoli back. Jiri Skalak continued on the left wing would left some people to wonder whether Solly March inadvertently run over Chris Hughton’s cat given the reluctance to start the winger out of the clearly out of form Czech international.
This game is hardly likely to live long in the memory for what actually happened on the pitch. Murray scored the only goal in front of the North Stand when he collected Anthony Knockaert’s header down and produced a brilliant touch followed by a thumping finish which left Jason Steele in the Rovers goal with no chance.
Show an insomniac this game and it would send them to sleep. Understandably for a side in their position, Blackburn showed no attacking intent and David Stockdale did not have a save to make all afternoon as the visitors failed to get a shot on target. The Albion meanwhile managed seven attempts on goal, none of which really troubled Steele. Not that we are complaining – we’ll take boring, scrappy 1-0 wins all the way to the end of the season please.
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Uwe Hunemeier was once again outstanding. Shane Duffy being ruled out for what we suspect is the season looked at the time being a worse outcome than hiring a babysitter only for Kate McCann to turn up at your door. The BFG’s form since coming back into the side however has been such that Duffy’s absence has been hardly noticed.
An excellent day got even better when news filtered through to the Amex that Jackson Irvine had scored an injury time winner for Burton Albion away at Huddersfield Town. The reaction that greeted that goal in the stadium and on the concourses told its own story. The Albion are now nine points clear of the Terriers – effectively 10 when you take into account our vastly superior goal difference – with seven games to play. Yes, the team looked nervy and it wasn’t the most fluid performance you will ever see but as Hughton said after the most important thing was we got the job done. Get it done seven more times between now and the end of the season and the dream will become a reality. Gulp.
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