Seagulls’ Class Tells

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 26, 2017 08:40

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Seagulls’ Class Tells

By Satish Sekar at Roots Hall Stadium © Satish Sekar (July 25th 2017)

Class

Despite the dreadful condition of the pitch at Southend United’s Root’s Hall – long grass preventing a passing game and divots created, Chris Hughton’s Brighton defied the run of play to take a commanding 3-0 lead at half-time, which they held on to until full time. In the first half hour the Seagulls hardly had a shot worthy of the name. But it made little difference. With just under half an hour played the visitors should have a penalty and friendly or not Jason Demetrious tackle from behind that upended Glenn Murray as he was about to shoot should have resulted in red card. Referee, Gavin Ward, inexplicably gave nothing. “Apart from ten minutes in the first half, we held our own”, Southend’s manager Phil Brown said.

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Ultimately the ignored penalty mattered little, as within four minutes Brighton took the lead as Steve Sidwell elected to feed the overlapping Liam Rosenior on the right flank rather than shoot. It proved to be a wise decision as Rosenior’s cross was converted by Solly March to give the visitors the lead after 33 minutes. Almost ten minutes later Markus Sutner initiated a nice move that doubled the visitors’ lead by playing it forward to the left where Pascal Gross crossed it to Glenn Murray who hesitated rather than shoot. Murray then laid it back to March who neatly slotted it into the far corner to Southend’s keeper Ted Smith’s right from just outside the area.

That almost stung Southend into a response. Promising youngster Dru Yearwood celebrated his new four-year contract with a spectacular effort that almost embarrassed Brighton’s keeper Niki Maenpaa – new signing, Australian international, Matthew Ryan, wasn’t in the squad – but went just wide. Brighton retaliated a minute later. Sutner delivered a sumptuous cross that begged for a finish to match – Murray obliged with a close range header as half-time beckoned. It seemed unlikely at the break, but that marked the end of the scoring.

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Chances Spurned

Michael Kightly’s cheeky 7th minute free-kick from just outside the area, almost caught Maenpaa out at his near post. Almost 20 minutes later Gross and Sidwell combined on the left to create a highly presentable chance for Sidwell, but he spurned it by shooting too close to Smith.

Southend’s keeper also denied James Tilley from point blank range in the final ten minutes while going the wrong way. Tilley, one of several late substitutes should have scored. Marc-Antoine Fortune was a lively focus of Southend’s attack, especially in the early stages, drawing a smart save from Maenpaa and winning the freekick that Kightly came close to converting.

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The state of the pitch hampered both sides’ passing game. Luckily, despite divots and long grass no injuries occurred. Brighton manager Chris Hughton hailed his German imports, pointing out that they settled quickly and adapted easily to the demands of German football. Defender Uwe Hunemeier was not enamoured of the state of the pitch. “They told us they didn’t have a groundsman”, he said – his facial expression answered the question better than words could. However, Southend made no bones about it – the pitch had to be addressed and would be.

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Meanwhile, Brown assured journalists that the state of the pitch was not a tactical decision and that it would be dealt with before the season opener against Blackburn Rovers on August 5th. Southend’s captain Anton Ferdinand had hailed the capture of Stephen Hendrie in his programme notes, but Hendrie’s limitations were exposed by the newly promoted Premier League side. Brown praised Brighton’s achievements and hoped to emulate them. Meanwhile both Hughton and Hunemeier said their ambitions for themselves and their club was to consolidate promotion by staying up and building from there. Neither looked further than that.

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Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 26, 2017 08:40