Steve Bailey: Widemen key in the run-in for Albion

Solly March. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Solly March. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
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That’s more like it. Albion’s second half performance at Rotherham was a  marked improvement on what was served up in the previous game and a half.

The 3-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, through the scoreline, was a wake-up call but the final result massively flattered Forest. Had Albion scored first – and they had a couple of decent openings – I believe they’d have gone on to win the game.

Even at 1-0 down, there were several half-chances to draw level. On another day, the Seagulls maybe sneak away with a point. As it was, a rare mistake by David Stockdale gifted Forest their second before the third came from the penalty spot deep in injury-time.

Heading to rock bottom Rotherham on Tuesday, Albion were looking to return to winning ways after back-to-back defeats.

Seagulls fans were wary about a potential banana skin as the Millers had collected just one point from nine matches heading into the game. Although the Seagulls dominated possession, chance-wise the first 45 minutes were pretty even, with Stockdale forced into two excellent saves.

Brighton made a quick start to the second half and from the moment Anthony Knockaert got the 49th-minute opener, there was only going to be one winner.

Rotherham caretaker manager Paul Warne spoke about Knockaert’s threat in the build-up to the game but, apart from the goal, the Frenchman had a relatively quiet match. He was replaced by Solly March with 17 minutes to go and the young Albion substitute gave a dazzling display on the wing in his time on the pitch.

He beat Rotherham defenders for fun and also got on the scoresheet with a shot Rotherham keeper Lewis Price really should have done better with.

Another wideman, Jiri Skalak, returned to the fold after missing the previous five matches, while Jamie Murphy was rested from the squad. Albion have an abundance of talent in the wing positions and they will all have a key part to play in the run-in.

With 12 goals and seven assists this season, Knockaert is an obvious threat for opposition managers to identify. Add in March’s skill and trickery, Murphy’s pace and forward running and Skalak’s set-piece delivery and the Seagulls are going to continue to create chances in every match they play. There will be times when they won’t be at their best but with the threat out wide, they’re always going to be in with a chance of winning games.

At the other end of the pitch, the injury to Shane Duffy is a big blow but Uwe Hunemeier was solid at Rotherham and Norwegian international Vegard Forren has been added to the squad this week.

With a six point gap still over Huddersfield, who have a game in hand, it’s going to be a tense end to the season but it’s important to remember Albion are still in a strong position.

As football fans, it’s easy to be pessimistic about your own team’s chances – and that was the case to a degree after the back-to-back defeats. The Rotherham win will get belief going again and it’s also worth remembering Brighton are averaging more than two points a game this season. That’s a position any supporter would have grabbed with open arms at the start of the season.

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