For the second time in four days Brighton disappointed in front of their home fans.
On Saturday the Albion lost an incident starved match with Birmingham City and last night and last night’s drab 1v1 draw with struggling Ipswich Town made is a measly one point from six since Albion moved to the Championship summit.
Gus Poyet’s team still sit a more than credibly third in the table – a position most fans would have been delighted with if offered earlier in the season – but they will need to be far more creative and clinical if they have designs on holding firm in the promotion mix up over the course of the season.
Again missing Craig Mackail-Smith, the Albion lacked any real movement in the final third. With Ashley Barnes starting in the central striking position with Stephen Dobbie in a deeper attacking midfield role failing to provide a similar burst of pace to create space.
The pair interchanged throughout the match in a fairly fluid line-up but both were missing the short-fire speed of the Scotland international and more often than not found themselves accepted the ball under pressure from defenders.
Kazenga Lua Lua, started at the expense of William Buckley, flattered to deceive against an Ipswich defence which seemed to have his number from the off. Without Bruno proving an attacking outlet down the opposite flank, Brighton were left over-using Lua Lua and the visitors simply doubled up on the speedster, nullifying much of his usually potent threat. In fact, the former Newcastle man was, if anything, guilty of failing to adapt his play enough, too often running down blind alleys from where he was consistently mugged of possession.
Gary Dicker was unlucky to be dropped to the bench to make way for the returning Andrea Orlandi, who inexplicably was awarded the sponsor’s man of the match despite being replaced when Brighton needed a goal. He was no doubt tiring but a creative player being removed just as his team needs creativity was hardly a ringing endorsement of his performance.
Dicker, much maligned by some of the home support, improved things by speeding up the Albion’s tempo but the Seagulls showed few signs of the attacking menace they have managed earlier this term.
In fact, the one real moment of quality came in the 27th minute. Carlos Edwards found space on the Ipswich right and delivered a cross which demanded to be met, with Daryl Murphy exploiting the poor positioning of Inigo Calderon to head home.
For the Spanish right back there was really no excuse. A similar move had resulted in an almost identical chance being fluffed not ten minutes earlier and was proof that the home side are missing Bruno in defence as well as attack.
Lua Lua should have put the Albion ahead inside five minutes after a neat move lead to the left winger scuffing a tame shot wide of the away goal but there was little for the 24,000 crowd to get excited about until Buckley equalised with ten minutes left on the clock.
A nice pass by David Lopez released Calderon on the right, who slid an inviting ball across the Ipswich six yard box leaving Buckley to poke home from no more than a yard.
Whether Brighton deserved a share of the spoils was open to debate. For all their possession, they regularly failed to trouble a defiant and well drilled Ipswich team whose performance did enough to suggest their current lowly league position is not something they should have to worry about for too much longer.
Brighton though will find themselves slipping out of promotion race unless they can solve their creativity problems. Fans may well ask why, more than a year after Glenn Murray left for Crystal Palace, does the team still only seem to have one player capable of player through the middle of a three pronged attack.
Dobbie, it appears, has been signed to fill the Vicente shaped hole in attacking midfield while Barnes looks far more effective on the right, cutting in and allowing Bruno the attacking space he so craves.
Brighton now boast an array of central midfield players but could not name a single centre forward among their seven subs. The squad looks unbalanced and it is something Poyet will have to address if his charges want to be considered genuine promotion prospects.
Match rating: Kuszsak 7, Bridge 7. Calderon 6. Greer 6, El Abd 6, Hammond 6, Bridcutt 6, Orlandi 5, Lua Lua 5, Dobbie 5, Barnes 5. Subs: Buckley 7, Dicker 6, Lopez 6.