GULLS THWARTED BY A SEA OF BLUE

Chance to reach top is wasted

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Jake Ba­con

CHRIS Hughton reck­ons Brighton were not at the races as they blew their chance to go top of the Cham­pi­onship ta­ble.

In a rather dull af­fair at the Cardiff City Sta­dium, Glenn Mur­ray thought he had given the Seag­ulls the lead in the 79th minute, but his would-be goal was dis­al­lowed af­ter ref­eree Roger East pulled play back for a foul.

The re­sult stretches Brighton’s un­beaten run to 13 games, which has pushed them to within a point of lead­ers New­cas­tle.

But a down­beat Hughton said: “There is a bit of dis­ap­point­ment. We played against a re­silient Cardiff side who made it dif­fi­cult for us. We could not break them down.

“I’d say over the 90 min­utes, we were the bet­ter side and the onus was on us to break down a tough de­fence.”

Joe Ben­nett nearly gifted his for­mer club the lead when Sam Bal­dock dispossessed him in the box, but Brighton’s lead­ing goalscorer Mur­ray failed to con­nect with his strike part­ner’s squared pass.

In a quiet first half, Jiri Skalak’s free-kick from 20 yards out hit the wall, but when it came back to him, his pow­er­ful ef­fort went just wide of Ben Amos’ goal.

Cardiff started the sec­ond half well and could have been in front when Sol Bamba headed wide from just three yards out, fol­low­ing an invit­ing Joe Ralls cross.

And in the lat­ter stages of the game, when sec­ond-placed Brighton ap­plied even more pres­sure on a firm Cardiff de­fence, Blue­birds keeper Amos came to the res­cue to beat away a fe­ro­cious Bal­dock strike.

Brighton had to play out in­jury-time with ten men as Gae­tan Bong picked up a sec­ond yel­low card af­ter a cyn­i­cal trip on Kadeem Har­ris.

Brighton have not lost for nearly three months and yes­ter­day’s set­back – a draw against a strug­gling bot­tom-three side – is only a mi­nor one, ac­cord­ing to Hughton.

He added: “There are more places than Cardiff where I’ve come away dis­ap­pointed. They will make it very hard for teams to come here.

“Af­ter a game like this there are the dis­ap­point­ments, but the pos­i­tives are an­other clean sheet, and a run that’s kept us go­ing.”

Cardiff re­main in the rel­e­ga­tion zone but the draw moves them up to 22nd in the ta­ble – and more im­por­tantly a point away from safety.

It was also a first clean sheet in 18 matches for the rel­e­ga­tion­threat­ened Welsh club.

But Blue­birds boss Neil Warnock says he won’t em­u­late Le­ices­ter man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri by re­ward­ing his de­fend­ers with piz­zas for a rare shutout.

He said: “No, be­cause we’ve been owed a few clean sheets.

“The lads are hav­ing a night out. But I don’t think [Joe] Ben­nett would’ve en­joyed his night out if Brighton had scored early on.

“We had to work re­ally hard and there wasn’t any­one who didn’t give ev­ery­thing and we knew we had to be­cause they’re such a good team.

“Brighton rip peo­ple apart and we had to be well or­gan­ised and catch them on the break when we could.

“I thought the play­ers did ex­actly what we’ve been work­ing on all week.

“The mid­field held their ground and young Kadeem did well.”

PICTURES: Ac­tion Images

SEE­ING RED: Brighton’s Gae­tan Bong is sent off HANDS UP: Glenn Mur­ray look de­jected af­ter his ‘goal’ is dis­al­lowed

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