The two managers reflect on Tuesday night’s game.
CHRIS HUGHTON gave credit to Albion defender Uwe Huenemeier for his professionalism and determination, as the German centre-half gave a man-of-the-match performance against Birmingham City on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old started his fifth successive game in Albion’s 3-1 victory over the Blues, and Hughton highlighted the defender’s positive attitude in training as a reason behind his seamless transition back into first-team action.
He said, “He’s prepared himself very well because of the way that he trains. He played some under-23 games but not masses, but he trains well every day.
“The moment you start thinking that you’re not going to play, that’s the moment something happens and you’re back in the team.
“He’s a player that wants to play and wants to do well. He realises that even though he might not be in the team at one stage, at some stage he might be.
“That’s how it’s panned out, whether that’s through injury, fitness or decisions. There’s every chance that you can get back into the side, and he’s prepared himself well for that.”
Hughton also spoke about the high level of competition within the squad at the moment, and showed sympathy towards the players he’s had to leave out of Albion’s matchday squad.
“I’ve got a motivated group, and at the moment it’s probably tougher to pick the subs than it is to pick the team. It’s a nice position to be in.
“It’s that balance between consistency and tweaking things a little bit. When you’ve got the games that we’ve got in such a short period of time, everybody’s pushing.”
GIANFRANCO ZOLA believed his side were made to pay for conceding an early goal at the Amex on Tuesday evening, but felt his team had great chances to get back into the game during the first half.
Glenn Murray struck for the Seagulls inside the opening two minutes, and Zola admitted his team couldn’t afford to go behind so early on, with Albion flying high at the top of the Sky Bet Championship.
He said, ”We wanted to be defensively strong at the beginning and wait for our moment, to hit them on the counter. But it was a poor start, on the wrong foot, and it compromised the rest of the game for us.
"If you allow a team like Brighton to be in front like we did, then it makes it difficult, considering the value of their team.
“If you lose your focus or concentration in these crucial moments, then you can get punished against a good team."
Zola reflected on Birmingham’s first-half performance after going behind to Murray’s goal, and thought his team provided more of an attacking threat than their opponents.
"We actually went closer to scoring than them in the first half (apart from the goal). We hit the crossbar through Craig Gardner and Clayton Donaldson had a very good chance.
“But as I’ve said to the players, what determines the game is not the 88 minutes where you play the game, but those two minutes or so when you have to be focused and effective.”