Brighton’s winning run was derailed by a well organised and disciplined Birmingham City team at a night to forget at The Amex.
Despite enjoying the majority of possession, the home side failed to trouble visiting goalkeeper Jack Butland other than forcing him into a string of routine catches when Albion’s widemen failed to pick out an attacker from a host of well placed positions.
The one real moment of quality came in the 27th minute when Birmingham’s Chris Burke latched onto a poor clearing header from Gordon Greer to dispatch a howitzer of a volley into the top of Tomasz Kuszsak’s goal.
William Buckley flattered to deceive on a frustrating evening for the one-time Watford flyer, who was well marshalled by Birmingham’s experienced debutant Paul Robinson.
Gary Dicker, much maligned by some of the Amex faithful, was the pick of the midfielders, with Dean Hammond looking tired and slightly off the pace as his recent run of games appeared to catch up with the player who is a few games behind the rest of Gus Poyet’s charges in terms of when his season started in earnest.
As the game wore on Poyet sacrificed Adam El Abd for David Lopez, a move which raised eyebrows but ultimately made sense as Birmingham’s line-up had often left El Abd as the man in possession facing a bank of five midfielders in front of him to pick a pass through. Better to have a midfielder in that role.
What was more perplexing though was Poyet’s reluctance to have two genuine widemen on the pitch at the same time. The Brighton sent on Kazenga Lua Lua not for Ashley Barnes, who seemed the obvious choice, but for Buckley. Facing such tight and disciplined defending, the Albion needed more men on the pitch capable of beating a man and pulling other defenders out of position to create space. As it was, Lua Lua proved adept at beating his marker but made the Albion’s direction of attack more predictable. With no Buckley and in the absence of swashbuckling Bruno. it was down the left of nothing for the Seagulls as they tried in vain to fashion an equaliser.
Not a great performance from Brighton but one which, in isolation, should not be too much to worry about. A repeat against Ipswich though will raise more questions about Poyet’s strength in depth and tactical flexibility.
Match rating: Kuszsak 7, Bridge 8. Calderon 6. Greer 6, El Abd 7, Hammond 6, Bridcutt 7, Dicker 7, Buckley 6, Dobbie 6, Barnes 5. Subs: Lua Lua 6, Lopez 5.