Six things we learned from Brighton's win against Crystal Palace

Albion celebrate Glenn Murray's winner. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Albion celebrate Glenn Murray's winner. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Glenn Murray scored a late winner as Brighton beat arch rivals Crystal Palace 2-1 in the FA Cup last night. Here's six things we learned from the game.

Murray downs his former side

Glenn Murray scores the winner. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Glenn Murray scores the winner. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Glenn Murray scored the late winner against one of his former sides to give Albion a first victory against Crystal Palace in four matches.

There were question marks over the goal with many people on Twitter suggesting the ball went in off Murray's arm but VAR was used and the goal was given.

Murray scored for Palace three times against Brighton but tonight's goal was his first for the Seagulls against their arch rivals.

The reward for Albion now is a trip to Middlesbrough.

Glenn Murray nets the winner. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst

Glenn Murray nets the winner. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst

The draw for the fourth round was made pre-match at the Amex and there was a collective groan when Rio Ferdinand pulled out ball number five - Brighton or Palace - shortly after Dennis Wise had drawn Middlesbrough as the home side.

But the tie will give Albion's squad players more valuable game time in the battle to stay in the Premier League.

There's no one there...

The attendance of 14,507 at the Amex was the second lowest this season as fans stayed away for a variety of reasons.

The trouble during the Premier League clash two months ago put some supporters off, while the game was also live on BT Sport, fans knew in advance that neither team would be fielding their first-choice line-up and the FA Cup is also not the same pull it once was.

Brighton made eight changes from their 2-2 draw with Bournemouth on New Year's Day, while Palace's starting 11 contained four changes from their 2-1 victory at Southampton on Tuesday.

Crystal Palace brought just under 2,000 fans for the match but the crowd was still down by more than 16,000 on Albion's highest attendance this season, 30,634 against Liverpool.

The lowest gate this season was 11,414 for the Carabao Cup second round tie with Barnet in August.

VAR confusion

For the first time in a domestic match in England, VAR (video assistant referee) was used.

Albion boss Chris Hughton admitted pre-match that video replays could become a regular part of football's future and the video technology is also being used in this week's League Cup semi-final ties.

Because of VAR, there was extra interest for the match between the arch rivals, with more press at the Amex than for any other game this season. And Murray's late goal ensured there was plenty to talk about afterwards.

The man in the middle was Andre Marriner and Neil Swarbrick, the video assistant referee, was back at the Premier League base in London. After consulting with each other following Murray's goal, it was decided there was no reason, using VAR, to disallow it.

Confusion reigned afterwards for a while, with debate over whether it had been used or not but Hughton and Palace boss Roy Hodgson both said it had.

It may need to be made clearer in the future, although the general consensus was the correct decision ended up being made.

On the scoresheet

Dale Stephens' goal was the first a Albion forward or winger had not scored this season.

Seagulls manager Chris Hughton had spoke in the build-up to the match about the need for more goals from midfield and defence. Glenn Murray leads the way with seven goals but Tomer Hemed, Pascal Gross, Solly March, Jose Izquierdo, Anthony Knockaert and James Tilley were the only other players to find the back of the net this season.

It was Stephens' first goal in more than a year, since he netted in a 3-2 win at Blackburn in December, 2016, and it was his first at the Amex in 21 months, last scoring in a 2-2 draw with Burnley in April, 2016.

Brighton will need more goals from Stephens, his central midfield partner Davy Propper and defenders Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy throughout the remainder of the season as they battle to stay in the Premier League.

Playing for places

Brighton made eight changes from their 2-2 draw with Bournemouth on New Year's Day but no one who came in looked out of place.

In fact, it would only be Uwe Hunemeier, Connor Goldson, Beram Kayal (due to injury) and Sam Baldock who had not featured much this season.

The rest of the Seagulls squad have played numerous times in the Premier League, so it was by no means a weak Albion line-up.

Mathew Ryan, Bruno, Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk, Anthony Knockaert all had a valuable rest, while Dale Stephens played an hour before Davy Propper came on in his place. Glenn Murray also came off the bench and provided the post-match talking point with his late winner.

Welcome back

Albion striker Sam Baldock played for the first time since May after coming on as an early substitute.

Izzy Brown was forced off with an early knee injury and Baldock came on in just the fifth minute for his first appearance since Albion's final game in the Championship, at Aston Villa on May 7.

A calf injury interupted the 28-year-old's pre-season but after an operation, he returned to action for the club's under-23 team in October. However, he had failed to make a first team appearance, despite being on the bench four times.

Questions were asked by fans when Baldock failed to get in the starting line-up tonight but he ended up getting a good run-out.

He almost had a dream return as he fired against a post in the second half with the score 1-1 and then shot over when he got through on goal late on. Only time will tell if he'll force his way back into Chris Hughton's plans for the remainder of the season.