Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 1 Aston Villa
A point away from home at the team sitting second in the table? I’ll take that, thank you very much.
It’s disappointing to concede just before the interval and we know from bitter experience how costly that can be. I suppose phlegmatically, we might say it’s happened before, it will happen again.
Taking the lead midway through the first half was nothing less than we deserved. Brighton had started like a runaway train, dominating possession but creating very little genuine threat on goal. The defence stood firm, creating a base for attacks, sporadic darts from the back.
Indeed, it was the first shot on target which brought the first goal. Albert Adomah delivered the ideal free-kick for Nathan Baker to head home with the deftest of glancing headers.
Brighton were rocked by the goal but once again began to dominate possession. As with the Seagulls early pressure, there was little genuine danger created. Villa sensed the break and were slow to spot the danger of the counter-attack. Murray’s low shot past Gollini was the ultimate punishment.
The second half proved to be a different story. Jack Grealish, unleashed from the bench, was pivotal in a performance which left the AMEX Stadium in no doubt that Villa are going to be promotion contenders come the end of the season.
Even so, Murray should have given the hosts the lead shortly after the restart but having failed to do so, watched Villa miss a procession of chances.
The closest was a Jonathan Kodjia header against the bar, a close range effort which left the woodwork rattling and south coast hearts in mouths. It wasn’t the only time Kodjia came close.
Steve Bruce could only look on enviously at the two outstanding saves Stockdale made to keep the scores level. Kodjia almost broke the stalemate but mistimed his header whilst Adomah’s low shot tested the Brighton ‘keeper.
Both managers accepted the result was a fair reflection of the ninety minutes. Steve Bruce lamented his side’s inability to find the decisive moment when they held sway in the second half:
“I’m delighted with the performance and I’m a tad disappointed that we didn’t see it through in terms of the second-half display.
“It was easily the best performance we’ve produced and it was more like it.
“The players have been much maligned but they showed exactly what they’re capable of. But we can’t get carried away with ourselves just because we’ve had a good six weeks. We have a lot of work to do.”
Some argue that being thirteen points off the automatic places is insurmountable. It isn’t but neither is the automatic spot – Newcastle are romping away and it’s hard to see them surrendering one of the top two places.
Our first target has to be the play-offs. We’re two good results away from occupying those places – and a little bit of luck – and we’ll be there. Once a solid base is built in the promotion spots, we look up and climb higher at every opportunity.
Small steps, taking each target as it comes. Given where we started from, it’s safe to say that anything this close to the top six is a bonus right now.