Friday 16 November 2018

Gross gets Brighton moving in right direction

Brighton 1 Watford 0

Anthony Knockaert of Brighton gets away from Roberto Pereyra of Watford. Photo: Getty Images
Anthony Knockaert of Brighton gets away from Roberto Pereyra of Watford. Photo: Getty Images

Paul MacInnes

The nerves were jangling, but Brighton held on for a vital win over Watford. A fourth league goal of the season from Pascal Gross was enough to see the home side over the line in a match they dominated. Clear of the relegation scrap at Christmas, Chris Hughton's side are moving in the right direction.

While the narrow margin of victory was familiar, in truth Brighton should have wrapped this match up within the first 15 minutes. Tomer Hemed was not the only culprit, but when he dragged his shot away from goal with only the goalkeeper to beat in just the fifth minute, he somewhat set the tone.

Bruno Saltor of Brighton and Hove Albion celebrates victory. Photo: Getty Images
Bruno Saltor of Brighton and Hove Albion celebrates victory. Photo: Getty Images

Four minutes later Davy Pröpper made a hash of a decent opportunity, looping the ball over the bar after Pascal Gross had found him on the penalty spot. Finally, in the 13th minute, a stretching Hemed failed to get the necessary touch to turn Markus Suttner's excellent cross beyond Heurelho Gomes.

The hosts had another decent opportunity on the half-hour mark. Connor Goldson, standing in at centre-half and making his first appearance for Brighton since undergoing heart surgery in the spring, bouncing his header off Gomes when free at the far post from a corner.

Hughton's side are clearly evolving, building on their defensive platform with some increasingly confident interplay. At the heart of it was Anthony Knockaert, the Frenchman now looking at home in the Premier League. His interaction with Pascal Gross and his competition with Richarlison down Brighton's right-hand side was the highlight of the opening 45 minutes.

At the same time, the priority for the home fans was clear - three points. Frustration was never too far from the surface.

Lewis Dunk of Brighton and Hove Albion is challenged by Roberto Pereyra of Watford. Photo: Getty Images
Lewis Dunk of Brighton and Hove Albion is challenged by Roberto Pereyra of Watford. Photo: Getty Images

Watford, meanwhile, looked nothing like the team that were revelling in life near the top of the division just a few weeks ago, but they were still strong and well organised, with Knockaert's rival Richarlison always offering an outlet.

It was the Brazilian who had the first decent chance of the second half, and Watford's first in the match, exchanging passes with Tom Cleverley before stinging Mat Ryan's hands at the near post. Richarlison's determination to have an effect on the game was in marked contrast to Andre Gray, Watford's £18m summer recruit, looking a shadow of his former intimidatory self in the lone striker role.

Up the other end, Gross made his mark on the game. In the 58th minute, he took aim from 25 yards out, but his low shot was just inches past the far post. It was a sighter, and so when he received the ball from Hemed on the edge of the box six minutes later, he was certainly going to shoot. The German stepped inside, nudged the ball away from Sebastian Prödl and hit the ball with enough venom that it skidded off the ground and beat Gomes's outstretched arm.

Five minutes later and Lewis Dunk had a clear opportunity to double the lead but put his header wide from a Gross corner.

Brighton's trademark resolve held firm and the only sniff of goal the visitors had came with the very last kick of the match; substitute Stefano Okaka failing to convert a late mishandle from Ryan.

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