Walking in the Lanes of Brighton in the morning, I bumped into the manager of a restaurant I patronise. We discussed the game at which point a fellow, head down walking past, muttered ” it will be 2-2″ . I foolishly ignored his prediction as I had advised Pargie it would be a goalless draw. Brighton’s two young central defenders Connor Goldston and Lewis Dunk have made the Amex a fortress only conceding one goal in the last nine home games. However I thought the real battle would be waged in midfield with Kayal and Stephens v Barton and Jones.
Alan Tanner had briefed me that Burnley were a physical side and to watch out for the crafty and naughty wiles of Joey Barton. He was not wrong as Barton committed three bad fouls on Kayal, one with the elbow and another with a stamp but was never booked. Had the ref booked him for the first foul he might have been constrained. On each occasion he went down rolling too confusing the referee that there had been a clash of bodies.
Twice Brighton took the lead. When Burnley were disallowed a goal when the ball went over the line in the final minutes I thought we were home and hosed. Our problem was defending corners. Goldston and Dunk took the two dangerous forwards Gray and Vokes which meant the Burnley centre backs had the aerial supremacy unopposed and one duly scored the equaliser in the 93 minute.
I had a long chat with Alan after the game. Fulham had deservedly beaten MK Dons 2-1 but were hanging on in injury time. I asked Alan why did he think Fulham were 4 from bottom and Brighton three from top. At the start of the season you would have predicted it would be the other way round. He replied that Brighton has a settled side and a experienced manager. The jury is still out on Slavisa Jokatonic. He tried yet another change of formation and tactics with no width in the side. The back four were 4 central defenders – Stearman, Madl, Amorebieta and Ream. The MK Dons goal came after an Amorebieta error. As ever, said Alan, it was MacCormack and Dembele who saved the day with a goal apiece. Whilst Fulham have declined over the season Brighton have improved. They played the better football against the league leaders though the final cross was often ineffective and Tomer Hemed missed chances which Andre Gray of Burnley would not have spurned.
With 6 games left it looks like a play-off place for the Seagulls but the last two of these are against Derby and Middlesbrough which will be crucial.