Ipswich Town 0 Albion 3Albion banished any memories of the disappointing end to 2012 by starting the New Year with a magnificent 3-0 victory over Ipswich Town.
Dean Hammond, Craig Mackail-Smith and Wayne Bridge grabbed the goals as the Seagulls put an end to a five-game winless streak, sending a perfect reminder to their play-off rivals that they are still in the hunt.
Gus Poyet’s side started 2012 in similar fashion with a 3-0 win over Southampton, a result that sparked a 12-game unbeaten league run, and the Albion boss will be hoping this result can be the catalyst for another impressive run of form.
There may have been a few sore heads amongst the crowd following New Year’s Eve but the Seagulls showed no sign of a hangover from the Watford defeat as they took the lead after 14 minutes.
Hammond’s intelligent run to the near post was left untracked and the on-loan Southampton man nodded Andrea Orlandi’s in-swinging corner past Stephen Henderson.
Kazenga LuaLua and Orlandi linked up well down the left just minutes later as Poyet’s side hunted for a second goal but the Spaniard’s cutback was put behind for a corner.
From the resulting David Lopez corner, the former Bilbao man picked out Liam Bridcutt on the edge of the area; the midfielder volleyed the ball back into the danger area but the Ipswich defence stood firm.
In a rare opening for the home side in the first half, Daryl Murphy rolled his marker Adam El-Abd before seeing his half volley from a tight angle tipped away by Tomasz Kuszczak. Bradley Orr latched onto the rebound before playing the ball into the path of Carlos Edwards, but the midfielder was denied by a terrific intervention from LuaLua - the winger’s sliding tackle preventing the midfielder from getting his shot off before Gordon Greer cleared the danger.
Ashley Barnes showed why he deserved his recall to the starting XI with a clever header to play Mackail-Smith through, and Albion’s top scorer guided his shot past Henderson and in off the post to double the lead - it was the Scottish international’s 11th strike of the season.
Barnes was once again involved as Poyet’s side nearly added a third before the break. The striker spinning his man in the box and managing to poke the ball across the face of goal, with Ipswich defender Luke Chambers fortunate to see the ball deflect off him and go wide rather than into his own net.
As expected Ipswich came out with far more purpose in the second half and Guirane N’Daw was the first to try his luck as his stinging drive from distance flashed wide before Lee Martin curled a free-kick over.
Having withstood the Tractor Boys’ attempts to find a route back into the game the Seagulls added a third.
On 68 minutes Bridge added a third goal to his season’s tally with a left footed drive from 30 yards that seemingly caught Henderson off guard as it nestled in his bottom corner.
Barnes and substitute Will Hoskins spurned a late chance to add a fourth as both forwards found themselves through on goal but both left the ball for each other giving Henderson time to come and collect the ball. Then in the dying seconds Lopez once again played in Hoskins but the striker's attempted lob went over.
Ipswich showed a surprising lack of fight for a Mick McCarthy team and Albion held on for a timely and deserved victory.