Party’s on hold as Seagulls falter
BRIGHTON may be assured of a Premier League place next season but captain Steve Sidwell insists Friday’s defeat at Norwich will jolt them out of party mode and refocus their efforts on securing the Championship title.
The Seagulls look destined to lift the trophy and could have wrapped it up at Carrow Road with a win, but two unfortunate own goals from goalkeeper David Stockdale and a disappointing all-round display from Chris Hughton’s men gifted Norwich victory.
Now Brighton have to wait and see if Newcastle can beat Preston tomorrow night and, if so, confirm the title against Bristol City next weekend.
But it could have been so different had they replicated their best against a re-energised Norwich hell-bent on denying former manager Hughton the glory of lifting the title at his old stomping ground. Stockdale was unfortunate with the two goals, both from Alex Pritchard shots that hit the woodwork and rebounded off him into the net, but Sidwell admits their display was from far from good enough.
“It wasn’t our night, but it could be a blessing in disguise and a kick up the backside that we need,” he said.
“When we’ve had a defeat, more often than not we’ve come back and responded very well and I don’t expect this to be any different.
“Don’t get me wrong, what’s happened this week (sealing promotion) for the football club has been brilliant for the town, for the people involved and for the owners.
“But it’s still not finished yet and we want the cherry on top of the icing on the cake.
“We deserve to get it and we’ll be fighting very hard next week against Bristol City, but firstly we’ll be putting the hard work in Monday to Friday in training.
“The goals themselves were freakish. To have one in the game and then one 20 minutes afterwards is something that has never happened to Stocko before, and I’ve never seen it either.
“Of course he’ll be disappointed as every keeper would be, especially after the season he’s had. He’s been one of our top performers and nothing like that would tarnish his season in our eyes.”
What Brighton lacked, Norwich made up for with an intense performance all over the pitch. But they almost fell behind when Glenn Murray’s header was cleared off the line by Jonny Howson.
The first goal arrived after just 18 minutes when Pritchard’s strike cannoned off the bar and hit Stockdale on the way in.
And just before the break a second curling effort struck the post and again went in via the keeper.
That left interim Canaries manager Alan Irivine hailing his team’s impressive form after three wins from four games.
“A few weeks ago we hadn’t beaten a side above us all season – now we have beaten three of them and that is very pleasing,” said Irvine.
“I thought we deserved to win, even though I have just been told that we didn’t have a single shot on target, unless you count the ones against the woodwork.
“I thought we controlled the game for most of the time.
“We passed the ball really well, especially in the first half, and also defended well, especially when they were putting balls into our box.”
Norwich saw off the challenge of promoted Brighton on Friday
CALAMITY: Norwich’s Alex Pritchard celebrates after Brighton's David Stockdale scores an own goal. Inset: The Seagulls trudge off at the end