Brighton moved up into the Championship play-offs with a fine 1–0 win over Birmingham at the Amex on Saturday.
During the week before the breaking story was about Liam Bridcutt. It was known that ex-Albion manager Gus Poyet wanted him at Premiership Sunderland.
A rejected offer of £2 million was talked about. Bridcutt then brought the issue to a head by submitting a transfer request. He was the fans’ player of the season two years running. I’m sure Gus won’t be reading this so I am safe in saying ‘let him go’ - at the right price. This is not just good business but because we have a better prospect in Rohan Ince. Bridcutt hasn’t been back to his best since injury and the younger Ince is performing well in our midfield. Watch this space.
Apparently it isn’t just Bridcutt that Poyet wants to snatch. He was after Will Buckley too (£1.75 million mentioned). Actually he’s another off form and currently out injured. With Kazenga LuaLua back and young Solly March looking good perhaps we should take the money?
But the first to go was Ashley Barnes! We knew Burnley wanted him and it was confirmed on Friday he had signed for a fee thought to be around £750,000.
We’ve lost a grafter who has scored goals for us at important times. Despite an inclination to trip referees I’m sorry to see him go.
It’s not all bad news as we have Jonathan Obika, a 23-year-old striker from Spurs on a loan deal.
He has been signed by Oscar Garcia to work alongside Leo Ulloa and any other strikers we can get hold of. Joe Mason, apparently surplus at Cardiff, is a candidate.
And so to the Birmingham game. Barnes at Burnley and no Bridcutt or Buckley on field or bench, but it didn’t matter.
Garcia had Ulloa upfront on his own with LuaLua wide left. David Lopez and Andrew Crofts pushed up to join the attack, Ince and Keith Andrews were deeper midfield.
Skipper Gordon Greer was back with Mathew Upson in the centre of defence, with Bruno in for Calderon and Stephen Ward left full-back. With Tomasz Kuszczak back in goal the team impressed.
It was one of the best goalless first halves I’ve seen - for once we failed to hit the woodwork but kept Darren Randolph in the Blues goal busy. At the other end 6ft 8in Nikola Zigic meant Birmingham were always a threat.
Our goal came after 58 minutes. Croft hit the post and Ulloa’s follow-up was blocked out to Lopez, who hit a superb first-time volley which proved to be the only goal of the game.
It was a nervous final few minutes but we kept another clean sheet for a thoroughly deserved win.
With 25 games played and 21 to go, we finally made it into the top six for the first time this season. But can we stay there? Our next FOUR games are away, starting with a real test at Derby on Saturday.