REPORT: FULHAM 0 ALBION 2
Brighton & Hove Albion moved out of the bottom three with a superb 2-0 victory at Fulham, thanks to second-half goals from Adrian Colunga and Solly March.
Colunga’s penalty on the hour mark and March’s close-range shot three minutes from time were enough for Albion to move ahead of Millwall on goal difference on a bitterly cold night at Craven Cottage.
Interim manager Nathan Jones made three changes to the line-up that drew with Reading on Boxing Day with Rohan Ince, Joao Teixeira and Craig Mackail-Smith replacing Gary Gardner, Jake Forster-Caskey and Darren Bent.
Chris O’Grady also made his first appearance in the matchday squad following his return from a loan spell at Sheffield United, while Sam Baldock was included in the 18-man party following his recovery from a thigh injury.
Colunga had Albion’s first opportunity when his half-volley was parried by Cottagers keeper Marcus Bettinelli.
Ross McCormack then made in-roads into the Albion half, but his strike took a deflection off Greg Halford before going wide of the left post.
Elliott Bennett looked lively for Albion throughout the opening half, forcing Bettinelli into a low save with a strike from just outside the box; he then set up Lewis Dunk for a close-range header which the Fulham keeper tipped over the bar.
The hosts still carried a threat themselves, as Konstantinos Stafylidis’s cross-shot was fired towards the far post and narrowly missed the onrushing Hugo Rodallega.
Albion came close to breaking the deadlock nine minutes after the interval when a sweeping move resulted in two chances for Bennett, one which was blocked and the other saved by Bettinelli, before Colunga fired the loose ball onto the post.
The Seagulls grew in confidence as the half progressed and were awarded a penalty when Bennett was brought down by Stafylidis inside the box. Referee Graham Scott had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Colunga coolly converted to give Albion the lead.
Fulham brought on Cauley Woodrow and Sean Kavanagh in a bid to bolster their attacking options, and the latter had an immediate impact, forcing David Stockdale into an excellent one-handed save with a curling strike.
Rodallega came close to an equaliser in the closing stages but his low strike was superbly tipped to away to safety by Stockdale. Kavanagh had another chance to level with a follow-up effort, but it was Albion that struck again to make the game safe.
Substitute O’Grady chested the ball into the path of Teixeira, the Portuguese forward in turn fed March, and the winger slid the ball home to send the 3,000 Albion fans home delighted.