‘Sur­prise’ Seb is the mas­ter

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Wil­liam As­ton

BRIGHTON win­ning on Fri­day night shouldn’t have come as a shock as they set their sights on the Premier League. How­ever, man­ager Chris Hughton ad­mits their match-win­ner did come out of the blue.

Af­ter a goal­less first half, Glenn Mur­ray broke the dead­lock just be­fore the hour mark as he sprung the off­side trap and beat Alex Smithies one-on-one.

And six min­utes later Brighton were two up as Se­bastien Pocog­noli su­perbly fired home a free-kick, be­fore QPR halved the deficit with a Matt Smith header.

Mur­ray’s strike was his 21st of the sea­son and it was no shock to see him on the score­sheet, but Hughton con­ceded that Pocog­noli’s spec­tac­u­lar win­ner – his first goal since 2011 – was very much a sur­prise.

“I thought An­thony Knock­aert was go­ing to take the free-kick, only be­cause Seb (Pocog­noli) hasn’t fea­tured as much as the oth­ers,” sad Hughton.

“On a lot of the work we’ve done with free-kicks, it’s usu­ally been Jiri Skalak or An­thony on them.

“It was a bit of a sur­prise, but it was a real qual­ity fin­ish, and cer­tainly no blame can be given to the goal­keeper. When it’s that clear in the cor­ner and comes off the cross­bar, I don’t think any­body’s sav­ing it.

“For Mur­ray’s goal, I couldn’t see the an­gle well from where I was, and some­times with that sort of fin­ish, when you’re oneon-one, you’re bet­ter off be­ing at an an­gle, but it was rea­son­ably straight.

“It’s a very good fin­ish be­cause he’s one-on-one with the keeper, and prob­a­bly on more oc­ca­sions than not, when it’s a fairly straight an­gle, the keeper gets a touch to it.

“He’s a player that, over the years, has been used to be­ing in po­si­tions like that, and that cer­tainly helps. It was one that lifted any kind of anx­i­ety that we had, be­cause QPR were al­ways a threat.”

Brighton hadn’t won at Lof­tus Road in al­most 60 years and they had few chances to change all that in a quiet first half, even though Mur­ray and Tomer Hemed saw goals chalked out for off­side.

But on 58 min­utes the two linked up to open the scor­ing, Hemed’s through-ball re­leas­ing striker Mur­ray who made no mis­take.

Left-back Pocog­noli then took cen­tre stage, fir­ing home a 64thminute free-kick off the un­der­side of the bar.

QPR got them­selves back in the game with 15 min­utes to play as striker Smith flicked in a header at the near post fol­low­ing a cor­ner. But they couldn’t find a lev­eller, Brighton goal­keeper David Stock­dale hav­ing to be alert to pre­vent his team­mate Steve Sid­well ac­ci­den­tally di­vert­ing a Ryan Man­ning cross into his own net.

The win was Brighton’s fifth in their last six games and QPR man­ager Ian Hol­loway was left curs­ing Mur­ray af­ter he scored the opener and won the free­kick that al­lowed Pocog­noli to fire home the win­ner.

“You don’t let Glenn Mur­ray run that far to­wards your goal,” said Hol­loway, who man­aged Mur­ray at Crys­tal Palace.

“You run back with him. With the great­est re­spect he isn’t the quick­est but he is de­ter­mined.

“It wasn’t off­side. We took a risk.

“When he was through, I’ve seen it over and over again and it al­most made me sick – but a great fin­ish!”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

POC ‘N’ ROLL: Se­bastien Pocog­noli curls in a su­perb free-kick for Brighton’s sec­ond goal

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