OSCAR UP AND RUNNING AT LAST
Crofts on target for Seagulls
OSCAR Garcia bought himself some breathing space as Brighton snared a crucial first win of the season under their new boss – who claims he’ll continue to live by the sword.
It looked as though the match was heading towards a goalless draw but up popped Andrew Crofts with just over quarter of an hour left on the clock to snatch a much needed-victory for the visitors.
Birmingham had created the better chances in the match until that point but were let down by a combination of poor finishing and bad luck.
The hosts rattled the bar twice in a matter of minutes at the beginning of the second half as they tried to seize the initiative. Neither side managed to find top gear as clear cut opportunities in front of goal remained a rare commodity.
Brighton won’t care, however, as they got their first points on the board and ended a run of three straight defeats in all competitions.
“I am the kind of person who wants to see a performance, not just the result,” said Garcia.“It was a good display but we weren’t accurate in front of goal.
“At this level it is important to get points, and this result makes it much easier. We want to build something here and it will take time.
“We had more possession than the opposition, just like in our last three games, but we managed to make it count.
“We tell our midfielders to get in the box and this is exactly what Crofts did for the goal. We’re looking for our players to be comfortable on the ball as we want to play a possession game.
“I want to dedicate this win to all the fans, especially the fans that came.”
The best chance of the first half fell to Leo Ulloa, who found himself with a clear path to goal, but he decided to work the ball onto his right foot and ended up poking the ball wide as he was closed down in the box.
Stephen Ward, making his debut on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, impressed down the left and almost capped a fine performance with a sweeping shot from the edge of the area that flew inches over.
Birmingham burst out of the traps after the restart, hitting the woodwork twice within a matter of minutes.
Andy Shinnie first rattled the bar with an angled drive from the edge of the area before Lee Novak followed suit with a thunderous effort of his own.
But Brighton managed to weather the storm and hit the hosts with a sucker punch on the counter attack.
Kemy Agustien, playing on his return to St Andrew’s, slipped in Crofts down the right and the midfielder coolly despatched the ball past Darren Randolph into the far corner.
And Blues boss Lee Clark was fuming with the manner in way in which his side crashed to this defeat.
“I’m frustrated that we lost, but I’m more frustrated with the manner in which we conceded the goal,” he said. “It was poor to say the least.
“The players have seen the goal already. We’ve watched it again in the dressing room because I was so angry with it. That’s the difference between us taking a point.
“They had three or four players in the move who were never pressed, and then the deep runner from midfield has had a free run without people tracking him.
“You just can’t do that at this level because you will always get punished and that’s exactly what has happened on this occasion, it’s very frustrating.
“I’m gutted for the fans because the support they’re giving the group of players is fantastic.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves down and keep working.”
SOLO STRIKE: Andrew Crofts scores for Brighton ON THE UP: Brighton manager Oscar Garcia celebrates with captain Gordon Greer
8 Made some fantastic saves and was quick of his line when he needed to be
6 A quiet game but did what he had to do when called upon
DAN BURN Towering in the air and solid on the deck. Did not let much past him
7 A steady performance characterised by some strong tackles
5 Put in a couple of good crosses but didn’t get forward enough
5 Worked hard throughout the match but lacked the final ball
SCOTT ALLAN Always looked to test Kuszczak but couldn’t find the accuracy
WADE ELLIOTT Brought others into the game in what was a busy performance
5 The game passed him by at times but you can’t fault his work ethic
6 Made lots of clever runs but he lacked service in the box
6 Looked to make things happen and went close several times
SUBSTITUTES BURKE 7; FOR SHINNIE (67) ARTHUR 6; FOR FERGUSON (77) GREEN 6; FOR ALLAN (82)
NOT USED: DOYLE, HANCOX, BARTLEY, LEE
TOMASZ KUSZCZAK Good distribution and dealt with crosses really well
6 Got forward on the odd occasion and did his job in defence well
GORDON GREER A calm performance from the skipper who led from the back
7 His experience shone through, especially in the air
8 Impressed on his debut and put in a few teasing crosses
KEITH ANDREWS Kept Brighton moving forward and shielded the back four all game
8 Constantly tried to make things happen and was rewarded with his goal
7 Ran the show in the middle of the park with his passing ability
WILL BUCKLEY Always looked to shoot and tested Randolph on a number of occasions
6 Wasted a couple of glorious chances but kept plugging away
5 Didn’t offer much going forward and was often a passenger
SUBSTITUTES FORSTER-CASKEY 7; FOR LOPEZ (59) BARNES 6; FOR BUCKLEY (68) INCE 6; FOR AGUSTIEN (82) NOT USED: ANKERGREN, EL-ABD, MAKSIMENKO, LUALUA