A win is a win: Seagulls Scene with Ray Eggleton

A WIN is a win! Brighton beat Coventry 2-1 at the Amex on Saturday in an exciting, hard-fought game.

That’s two wins on the trot at home and the three points lifted the Seagulls up to 11th in the championship table, just one point off the play-offs.

I’ve previously said there are no easy games in this division. Coventry City are bottom with Doncaster Rovers on 13 points but I have to say they were impressive – apart from their finishing.

I had thought Doncaster were good when we beat them at the Amex in the very first game of the season back in August. Also in the third-from-bottom relegation spot are Bristol City. They beat table toppers Southampton 2-0.

I can’t see the Robins going down so teams like Millwall, Nottingham Forest (our next opponents), Watford, Ipswich and Portsmouth had all better watch out. It is all concertinaed. Us and nine other clubs were within a win of the play-off zone BUT still only seven points better off than Bristol City – with just 27 games left!

It was another near full house at the Amex, with the 19,108 including around 1,800 supporting the Sky Blues.

It was our first Saturday afternoon game for three months and we had a great start. Craig Mackail-Smith had an early reward for his continual running. He quickly latched onto a ball played across the penalty area, enabling a run at goal and shot (Mackail-Smith is pictured celebrating the goal with Albion team-mates).

Joe Murphy in the Coventry goal managed a blocked save only to see the ball go back past him off the shins of centre-back Richard Keogh.

We cheered and sang – but for less than three minutes! A cross from the right was met by an inrushing Gary Gardner, who was playing his first game for the Sky Blues, to beat Casper Ankergren with a firm header. On loan keeper Steve Harper has returned to Newcastle so Casper has his place back between the posts.

Two goals in the first nine minutes gave us hope of a goal-fest. It wasn’t to be but we did get our second, which proved to be the winner, before half-time. Before that one of our Painters left the field. Marcos picked up an injury after only a dozen minutes and had to be replaced by Romain Vincelot.

This proved to be not such a bad thing as it was Vincelot who headed home our winning goal.

On 37 minutes referee Gavin Ward did us a favour. In fairness to him I must say he didn’t award any penalties that weren’t. However, he failed to give us a penalty when the other Paynter, Billy, was pulled down in the area.

We forgave him this after he made Liam Bridcutt retake a quick free-kick. On the second time of taking Bridcutt sent in a long ball from the right.

Vincelot scored his first goal for the Albion with a magnificent header into the top right corner. 2-1 to the Seagulls, leaving us in a happy frame of mind at the interval.

Of course, the second half was tense. The third goal wouldn’t come and Coventry had long periods of possession. Fortunately they didn’t have a cutting edge and our defence held firm.

Craig Noone was again our main attacking threat but both he and sub Kazenga LuaLua spent much time back in their own half. It was tense and worrying when these two attackers needed to defend. But we held on and safely bagged the three points.

Tuesday night saw our Seagulls up to Nigel Clough’s Derby. They could have leapfrogged us with a win.

But happily Brighton put in a classic away performance, kept a clean sheet and took the three points with a fine goal from striker Mackail-Smith.

More than 22,000 were at Pride Park, including a good band of travelling faithful Albion fans.

They were celebrating on 13 minutes when Inigo Calderon sent in a cross from the right. The Seagulls’ leading scorer reacted quickly, hitting a thunderous shot that beat Rams keeper Frank Fielding.

There were several good things about this performance. It is great for Craig to be back amongst the goals. There was the clean sheet and an away win. Adam El-Abd returned from long-term injury to play the last 40 minutes. Best perhaps was the fine form of our goalie Casper Ankergren. The “Great Dane” is clearly intent on keeping his spot now that he is back in the team.

Derby did the best to stage a comeback but Brighton weren’t to concede.

Manager Gus Poyet was rightly proud of the team’s defence. In fact they came the closest to another goal as Mackail-Smith was unlucky not to get a second when his header from a Craig Noone cross came back off the post.

Two games, two wins, six points and all is looking good. Suddenly we are sixth equal and another win against Forest at the Amex will see us up with the promotion hopefuls.