Brighton once again failed to trouble the twine as a 0v0 draw with Cardiff City meant the Seagulls have now fired blanks in the last four competitive matches.
Fans have to hark back to the 84th minute of penultimate game of last season, at home to Birmingham City, for the last time a Brighton player found the net and, on a night of more encouraging possession, Gus Poyet’s men faltered in the final third.
Ashley Barnes wasted two good chances, first dilly dallying on the ball after latching on to an enticing pass and then heading over from an unmarked position in the centre of the goal after a teasing right wing cross from the improved Craig Noone.
Bruno had two efforts. One drew a reaction save from the Cardiff ‘keeper, the other a worried duck from the back row of the North Stand. It was the later which summed up another fruitless night for the Albion as the need for new striking blood becomes more apparent by the minute.
On the way out of the Amex last night, one of the record 25,000 plus fans who packed into the increasingly attractive stadium was quick to voice his solution. “Tony Bloom,” he said, “should drive to Selhurst Park tomorrow and just give Palace whatever money it takes to get Glenn Murray back.”
Six months ago such a suggestion would have been ridiculed by the Albion faithful. Now, it seems common sense, if a touch unlikely. Despite his relative lack of goals for the Eagles, Murry has impressed fans which the sort of willingness to bring others into play and link up midfield and attack which the Albion are so painfully missing.
Not even the introduction of Vicente late in the second half could stir the Seagulls – with many fans left baffled at Poyet’s decision to place the Spaniard in the centre forward role and move Craig Mackail-Smith to the right wing. In formation terms, it was almost a backward step at a time when the Albion should have been going for the Cardiff throat.
For their part, Cardiff looked a side likely to be challenging for promotion. A solid defensive unit, the talented Peter Whittingham string-pulling in the middle and a forward line of Craig Bellamy and Heidur Helguson will surely see them finish in the top six.
Bellamy was on the receiving end of some abuse from the home stands. His crime? Remaining on the floor following a clash with the once again below par Andrew Crofts. When Cardiff got the ball, he got up. Hardly deserving of the boos which rang out from the upper rafters of the Amex.
This, lest we forget, is the same Bellamy who funds charitable trusts in Africa, represented Team GB at the Olympics – the same Team GB Mackail-Smith turned down the chance to represent – and has turned his back on a higher wage to join his hometown club.
As is often the case in football, perhaps a little bit of context was needed.
For much of the game the midfield was as congested as the shambolic three-buses-from-one-queue kerfuffle at the R, S and P stops of the post match park and ride, and the visitors, to their credit, were happy to pack the middle and leave Albion’s defenders in possession.
Plenty of teams will adopt a similar approach when visiting the Amex this season.
Not a depressing draw by any means but an outcome which, once again, left fans wondering why it has taken Poyet so long to solve a striking problem which has been evident since midway through last term.
Perhaps the fans who got so carried away after the friendly win against Chelsea may need to reasses the team’s pedigree.
Kuszczak 8, Bruno 7, Bridge 8, Greer 7, El Abd 6, Dicker 6, Crofts 6, Bridcutt 6, Barnes 5, Mackail-Smith 6, Noone 6. Subs: Lua Lua 6, Vicente 6, Harley 5.