BRIGHTON’S promotionchasing players had a row with referee Oliver Langford as they slumped to a shock defeat at struggling Nottingham Forest.
Led by Lewis Dunk, the players surrounded Langford and his assistant when they allowed what looked like an offside Britt Assombalonga goal with the game an hour old.
Dunk and his team-mates begged Langford to look up at a replay of the goal over their heads on a giant City Ground screen. But the referee had to ignore the footage and after a long chat with his assistant, he ruled the goal stood.
Substitute Zach Clough had only been on the field a minute when he took a Jamie Ward pass and smashed it towards Brighton keeper David Stockdale. Assombalonga was in a clear offside position at that stage – but was he interfering with play?
He certainly was when he jumped at the ball and claimed he got a touch to send it past Stockdale, wheeling away with his arm in the air celebrating his tenth goal of the season.
“He looks offside,” said stunned Brighton boss Chris Hughton. “Whether the referee saw that Assombalonga touched the ball, who knows, but it changed the game.
“I am disappointed with it. From what I have seen he is offside and the linesman has the best view of that. After that the second and third goals were very bad and a reflection of our performance overall.”
Brighton have now lost successive games for only the second time this season. But the way they went down was alarming and questions their ability to stay in the automatic promotion race.
Stockdale made an awful mistake to gift Ben Osborn his 89th-minute goal and then Dunk brought down tricky substitute Ben Brereton in the seventh minute of injury-time for Clough to ram home a penalty.
“It’s a massively disappointing result and this is a most important period now,” added Hughton.
“It is tough for us. There is a group of teams behind us that are going to get a lot of wins and we need to make sure we get back
GAME, SET AND MATCH: Zach Clough scores the third from the penalty spot