The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By John McDougall

BRIGHTON boss Chris Hughton was strug­gling to find any neg­a­tives af­ter his side’s win over Black­burn lifted them ten points clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

Matt Kilgallon’s first-half own goal proved de­ci­sive as the Seag­ulls ended a three-game win­less run and con­demned in­jury-hit Black­burn to back-to­back de­feats.

Hughton re­served spe­cial praise for striker Chris O’Grady whose cross into the box led to the goal which sealed victory.

“We’re de­lighted with the progress that we’ve made be­cause it is dif­fi­cult when you’re only a point or a cou­ple of points above that rel­e­ga­tion zone,” he said.

“But we’ve got a group of lads that have worked hard to make sure that we are able to steer clear of that and at the mo­ment we’re de­lighted.

“With the sys­tem that we played against a team that you know are go­ing to turn you and try to get the ball into the box, into the front two, some­times the dis­tances be­tween the back and the front are go­ing to be quite big and you’re re­liant on some­body to hold that ball well for you.

“Par­tic­u­larly on a quite dif­fi­cult pitch as well, I thought Chris was re­ally ex­cel­lent for us.”

The vis­i­tors could have taken the lead on ten min­utes af­ter O’Grady got the bet­ter of Alex Bap­tiste to get a shot away, but the for­ward’s curl­ing ef­fort clipped the post with a div­ing Ja­son Steele beaten.

As Brighton con­tin­ued to look the bet­ter side, the cre­ative Joao Teix­eira found some space and worked a 17th-minute op­por­tu­nity from dis­tance which sailed just off tar­get.

And the vis­i­tors’ fine play was re­warded shortly af­ter as O’Grady fired in a 26th-minute right-wing cross and Rovers skip­per Kilgallon’s div­ing header sailed past his own stop­per Steele to give the Seag­ulls the ad­van­tage.

Brighton then nearly ex­tended their lead af­ter Teix­eira latched onto Dale Stephens’ quick 44th-minute ball for­ward and his shot was ex­pertly saved by a div­ing Steele.

Mo­ments later, at the other end, op­po­site num­ber David Stock­dale pro­duced a stop of sim­i­lar cal­i­bre to deny Mar­shall who cut in­side and fired a fierce curl­ing ef­fort at goal to leave the score at 1-0 at half-time.

Af­ter the break Black­burn came within inches of lev­el­ing when Jor­dan Rhodes’ header from Tom Cairney’s cross was pushed onto the post by Stock­dale on the hour and Gor­don Greer cleared with Rovers sub­sti­tute Rudy Gest­ede lurk­ing.

And the home side’s search for an equaliser proved elu­sive af­ter Markus Ols­son’s 84th-minute fierce ef­fort from Bap­tiste’s lay­off was palmed away by Stock­dale in the Brighton goal.

Black­burn boss Gary Bowyer ad­mit­ted his side were be­low par in the first-half, but felt a goal sim­i­lar to one seen in Wolves’ clash with Derby the night be­fore ought to have stood.

“I think the goal prob­a­bly matched the qual­ity of the game - wasn’t a clas­sic, was it?”, said Bowyer, who’s side re­main tenth in the ta­ble.

“I didn’t see a great deal wrong with our goal that got chalked off – it was very sim­i­lar to Lee Grant’s in the Wolves ver­sus Derby game.

“But no ex­cuses, we were nowhere near good enough first half – nowhere near.

“And sec­ond half we had a bit more of a go and then their goalie to be fair to him has pulled two great saves out.

“The play­ers that were out there were more than ca­pa­ble of win­ning the game though.

“So we’ll use this in­ter­na­tional break wisely, re­cover and hope­fully have one or two more op­tions for the run in.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

HIGH FIVE: Brighton’s Bruno Sal­tor and Chris O’Grady cel­e­brate a Matthew Kilgallon own goal Inset: Black­burn’s Jor­dan Rhodes di­rects a header goal­wards

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