Gritty Brighton steer clear of rel­e­ga­tion de­spite Ings lev­eller

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By Jeremy Wil­son

Brighton might have some­times seemed like the most re­luc­tant of Project Restart par­tic­i­pants – but have ac­tu­ally been among the most ready. Only two points separated them from the rel­e­ga­tion zone when matches re­sumed, but Gra­ham Pot­ter’s play­ers have re­sponded favourably to be­ing the club with per­haps most to lose and a gritty 1-1 draw against Southamp­ton will al­most cer­tainly guar­an­tee their Pre­mier League sta­tus.

As­ton Villa’s fail­ure to beat Everton means Brighton’s cush­ion to the bot­tom three stands at six points and, with two matches to play and a vastly su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence, they could only now be de­nied by an ex­tra­or­di­nary se­quence of re­sults. “It’s a big point; hard fought,” said Pot­ter. “We were put un­der mas­sive pres­sure in the sec­ond half and we de­fended with our lives.”

Neal Mau­pay had given Brighton a 17th-minute lead with his 10th goal of the sea­son and, al­though Pot­ter said that he had no idea what pro­voked his striker’s “cry­baby” ges­ture of cel­e­bra­tion, it was per­haps sig­nif­i­cant that it was his first strike since the al­ter­ca­tion with Arse­nal’s Mat­teo Guen­douzi.

Danny Ings in­evitably scored Southamp­ton’s equaliser, and he be­came only the third player in the club’s his­tory – af­ter Matthew Le Tissier and James Beat­tie – to reach 20 Pre­mier League goals in a sea­son. Man­ager Ralph Hasen­huttl said his play­ers had been “slow in their minds” in the first half but was not ex­ag­ger­at­ing when he noted that his team could have fin­ished with six goals.

Southamp­ton’s late draw on Mon­day night at Old Traf­ford was hugely morale boost­ing but had left only 72 hours to travel, re­cover and pre­pare. It meant a Pre­mier League de­but at left-back for 20-year-old Jake Vokins while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, sub­ject of strong in­ter­est from both Everton and Tot­ten­ham, be­gan in an un­fa­mil­iar right-back role. Hasen­huttl con­firmed that Hojbjerg has so far re­fused to ex­tend a con­tract that ex­pires next sum­mer but said that Southamp­ton would only sell at “the right price for us”. This is un­der­stood to be around £30 mil­lion. Mau­pay darted be­hind Southamp­ton’s de­fence to cut back and shoot in­side goal­keeper Alex Mc­Carthy to open the scor­ing.

But Brighton fi­nally suc­cumbed af­ter 66 min­utes when Nathan Red­mond re­leased Ings and he calmly side-footed home to equalise.

Only a gen­uinely breath­tak­ing save from Mathew Ryan pre­vented Southamp­ton’s vic­tory, with the Brighton goal­keeper bril­liantly tip­ping Jan­nik Vester­gaard’s pow­er­ful shot on to the cross­bar.

Opener: Neal Mau­pay gave Brighton the early ad­van­tage when he got in be­hind the Southamp­ton de­fence to score

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