Match Review – Stoke City 1-1 Brighton

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Given that Brighton and Hove Albion had lost their previous five visits to the Bet365 Stadium managing only one Lee Steele goal along the way, we were long overdue some entertainment from a trip to Stoke City.

And Christ, did we get it. The final two minutes alone made up for every one of those crap dasy out in the freezing wind drinking in a city that Father Time left behind in the 1970s.

Enterting stoppage time at 1-1, it looked like a valuable point was in the bag for the Albion. We’d gone ahead in the first half through an another stunning goal from Jose Izquierdo, the Colombian getting involved in a dazzling passing move with Solly March and Dale Stephens which he finished off with aplomb.

Izquierdo was a real handful all afternoon, forcing Jack Butland into tipping an effort from distance over inside of two minutes while he also forced a fine parry with a powerful right foot effort in the second half. Against one of the Premier League’s lesser goalkeeper than the England international, Izquierdo could have had a hat-trick.

The winger is in excellent form at the minute and has been involved in four of our last seven Premier League goals. The fact we’ve only scored seven goals away from home this season has been a combination of Chris Hughton – great to see his James Bond Vilian Beard back, by the way – pulling up the handbrake on the road and the fact we have hardly created any chances. But when Izquierdo is in this sort of mood, he is always going to make something happen and that will be a real boost in terms of the Albion picking up points away from home between now and the end of the season.

Stoke’s equaliser came with just over 20 minutes left to play and it was no surprise that it was Xherdan Shaqiri who got it. Shaqiri ran the show in our 2-2 draw at the Amex in November and although not quite as influential here, he still showed why it should remain one of lifes great mysteries as to why a player of his quality is playing for Stoke City when he curled past Maty Ryan from the edge of the box. That was the Potters first shot on target.

It wouldn’t be their last, not with that breathless last two minutes to come. Firstly, Dale Stephens was adjudged to have bought down on-loan Paris Saint Germain forward Jesse in the box with referee Robert Madley pointing to the spot.

Jesse wanted to take the spot kick himself but luckily for the Albion, Charlie Adam overruled him and he saw his effort kept out superbly by Ryan. The loose ball fell to Adam but Lewis Dunk somehow cleared it away not by totally legally means.

Actually, Dunk’s whole role in the penalty was pretty much illegal. He began by encroaching in the box which, had it have been spotted would have meant a retake. He then basically wiped Adam – who had the goal at his mercy – out in prodding it out of play for a corner.

Dunk himself was honest enough to say in his post match interview that he couldn’t believe he’d gotten away with that but the drama still wasn’t over and the point still wasn’t in the bag. From the resulting corner, the Albion’s marking was predictably non existent which allowed Kurt Zouma to head goalwards but substitute Anthony Knockaert somehow headed off the line to preserve the draw.

That meant the draw was celebrated more like a win, given the circumstances in which we achieved it. But a point away at Stoke given our awful record there and it remaining one of the toughest places in the Premier League to go is a good one.

We’ve said that seven points from this run of games would be a good return and so far, five are on the board after this draw, the point at Southampton and the win over West Ham. Beat Swansea in a fortnights time and it’s a very good month for the Albion which is just as well given what lies in wait for April.

The anyone-can-beat-anyone nature of the bottom half of the Premier League was in full evidence this weekend with Huddersfield defeating Plucky Little Bournemouth (another reason to hate that smarmy bastard Eddie Howe) and Newcastle United seeing off Manchester United.

That leaves the Albion two points off the drop zone yet only six points off ninth. If 40 points is the safety mark – and it looks like it will be a high one this season – then we need four more wins to reach it. That seems more than achievable, but realistically those points need to be on the board before the middle of April as it is tough to see where they will come from with games against Spurs, Burnley, Manchester United, Liverpool and possibly Manchester City to round off the season.

So strap yourselves in, it is going to be a breathless finish. That last two minutes on Saturday was only the start of it.

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