Brighton 3, Reading 0: Impressive Seagulls soar back to the summit

Brighton & Hove Albion climbed back to the top of the Championship as they took advantage of a Newcastle slip-up with a convincing victory over Reading.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Jamie Murphy clips the ball over Reading goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi to put his side 2-0 up. Picture by PW Sporting Pics
Brighton & Hove Albion's Jamie Murphy clips the ball over Reading goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi to put his side 2-0 up. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Sam Baldock's tenth league goal of this season in the first half combined strikes from Jamie Murphy and Anthony Knockaert after the break saw the Seagulls soar back to the summit.

It came after previous leaders Newcastle dropped points with a shock 2-2 draw at home to Bristol City as they hit back from 2-0 down, while third-placed Huddersfield had to make do with a 1-1 draw at Barnsley.

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And Albion had to be patient in the 5.30pm kick-off as a hard-working and resilient Reading, under boss Japp Stam, proved hard to break down.

Brighton & Hove Albion players celebrate Jamie Murphy's goal. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Chris Hughton named an unchanged line-up from the one that won 2-0 away at Barnsley last week, while Reading made two changes as Paul McShane and Yann Kermorgant came into the starting XI.

The hosts started on the front foot, but were equally repelled by the Reading back five, Shane Duffy's off-target header falling wide from Anthony Knockaert's corner was the closest chance in the opening ten minutes.

With an animated Stam pulling his team about from the sidelines, the visitors were certainly organised and proved difficult to break down.

The best chance went Albion's way on 14 minutes as Knockaert skipped away down the right and pulled the ball back for the arriving Bruno, but his volleyed effort did not trouble Ali Al Habsi.

Reading's Liam Moore gets to grips with Glenn Murray in this evening's Championship clash at the Amex. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

On 24 minutes, Albion were almost architects of their own downfall as Reading broke dangerously after Duffy and Dale Stephens blocked each other and a ball forwards for the breaking Gararth McCleary was cleaned up by Sebastien Pocognoli.

Just before the half-hour mark, Baldock crashed a curling effort against the far post from just inside the box after Murphy pinched the ball in his own box and ran the length of the pitch in a counter-attacking move.

An already unpopular Kermorgant - after injuring Liam Rosenior back in August - didn't gain any more fans as he went down under minimal contact from Lewis Dunk in the box when getting goalside from a long ball and referee Peter Bankes was not impressed with his penalty appeals.

At the other end, Knockaert fired straight at Al Habsi, while David Stockdale was soon forced into his first save as Roy Beerens got in behind the Albion defence.

Albion led, however, ten minutes before half time as Baldock latched onto a clipped Bruno ball brought the ball down and fired high past Al Habsi despite being under pressure from Paul McShane.

Knockaert could have made it 2-0 before the break after good link-up play between Glenn Murray and Baldock, but Al Habsi saved his angled shot with he legs when the winger probably should have put the ball back across goal.

A warm round of applause went up in the 45th minute as an image of Paul McCarthy was put on the screens to honour the former defender, who died suddenly last Sunday.

Albion kept up the pressure in the second half with a succession of corners, but it was Beerens that had the first shot at goal as he showed neat feet to beat Duffy, but dragged wide.

Duffy was then in the right place as he cleared Danny Williams header off the line and a minute later at the other end Stephens threaded through Jamie Murphy and he coolly dinked over Al Habsi.

Murphy then rolled into Knockaert in the box and he stepped his man before riffling into the side netting and Murray was denied by the offside as he finished Bruno's brilliant cross as Albion threatened to run riot.

They added a third on 80 minutes as Murphy drove forwards from his own half - as he had been doing all evening - and slide in Knockaert and he found the bottom corner with aplomb.

Brighton: Stockdale; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Pocognoli (Tomori 83); Knockaert, Stephens, Sidwell, Murphy; Murray (Hemed 76), Baldock (Akpom 82). Unused subs: Walton, Huenemeier, Tomori, Kayal, March.

Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Blackett, McShane, Moore, Evans (Kelly 68), Williams, Mutch (Swift 56), Beerens, McCleary (Grabban 71), Kermorgant. Unused subs: Jaakkola, Van den Berg, Obita, Popa.

Attendance: 29,619.