Brighton v Saints Match Report
Jason Puncheon and Jon Otsemobor both returned after being cup-tied and injured. The surprise for me was the sight of a missing Lee Barnard.
Saints got the game started attacking the home end. A lively start saw chances at both ends. The closest coming from a Lambert cross as Antonio narrowly missed connecting with a diving header.
For the Seagull's a Bennett cross was met by Murray who blasted way over the bar. Murray missed another glorious chance from even closer moments later as Brighton looked to be throwing chances away willy nilly.
Finally in the 12th minute Brighton managed to make the break through. Dean Hammond earned a yellow card for an over the top tackle resulting in a free kick. The free kick was partially cleared by the Saints defence and it fell invitingly into the path of the onrunning Bennett who smashed it through the crowd into the back of the net.
Brighton were spurred on by the goal but Saints withstood the pressure and then nearly scored themselves six minutes later. A Lambert free kick from well outside the box clipped the top of the bar as it flew past with Brezovan well beaten.
Soon after as the high tempo was maintained Wotton went extremely close with a strong strike from a Lallana cross. The tempo was end to end as both sides strove to stick their stamp on the game.
Lambert was fouled near the edge of the box but Puncheon wasted the free kick hitting it straight into the wall. His next effort though on 40 minutes was far better. He curled a delightful free kick into the box from the right where it was met by Dean Hammond. The ball was met with a glancing header that nestled into the bottom corner for the equaliser.
The game closed with Lallana being denied by a last ditch challenge by Adam El Abd. HT 1-1.
The second half started as the first ended with Saints coming close. Another dangerous looking free kick was delivered by Puncheon but this time Brezovan was able to collect the ball.
Murray got himself booked for diving in the box. His theatrics not working.
On 55 minutes Puncheon went on a mazy run through the middle of the park but his shot didn't match the run as he shot narrowly wide. this seemed to prompt a change as Brighton subbed Carole with Lua Lua.
Puncheon then chased a lost cause before getting the ball from the Brighton defence before sending in a fierce shot. Brezovan didn't know much about the shot as it hit him and flew away to safety. Again Brighton made a substitution with Barnes coming on for Murray.
Swift counter attacks from both sides followed and Lua Lua finished one such attack by beating Otsemobor again and fizzing a shot into the nearside netting with Barnes screaming for the ball. Two minutes late and Lua Lua beat Otsemobor yet again and crossed superbly for Barnes to head into the net. 2-1.
Shaken Saints looked decidedly edgy now and Calderon let fly from a long way out. Now it was Saints turn to make changes and Pardew made three at once. Barnard,Papa Waigo and Seaborne came on with Jaidi,Wotton and Antonio.
Barnard was soon in the book for diving. Then Brighton made their final substitution withArismendi replacing Navarro.
In the 81st minute Barnard was rugby tackled approximately thirty yards from goal. Lambert lined to take the shot and as we waited with hope we saw the free kick sail high wide and not so handsome.
Brighton were being pushed ever farther back now and as they did Hammond came close to scoring his second. A fine effort from him was saved well by Brezovan. The pressure continued and finally told in the dying minutes of the game.
The Saints equaliser came when Waigo was fed the ball and he raced into the penalty area near the byeline. There he cut the ball back sending a crisp pass to Barnard, who ran onto the pass and drove the ball firmly into the back of the net from six yards out. 2-2
Saints threw everything at Brighton as the 4 minutes of extra time passed all too quickly. Hammond had another shot saved and even Fonte was seen trying his luck in the opposition's penalty area. Full time came with the sides all square. FT 2-1.