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STEPHENS DELIGHTED TO OPEN HIS ACCOUNT

10 January 2018

Bennett Dean
Dale Stephens celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace.

Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens was delighted to find the net in Monday’s Emirates FA Cup third round victory over Crystal Palace, ending a run of over a year without a goal.

The midfielder’s last strike for the Seagulls came in a 3-2 win away at Blackburn Rovers in December 2016, and Stephens was pleased to recapture that scoring feeling.

He said, "I've been reminded a few times. What is it, 13 months? I'm glad to squash that duck really.

"To be honest, I was looking to square it. I was looking over my shoulder to see if I could put somebody in but I heard a shout from Sam Baldock actually, 'shoot, shoot'.

"He made my mind up to shoot and it was nice to see the ball go into the back of the net.

"Nothing really changed for me in terms of the role I played. I just saw the opportunity to go forward. It is important that one of us (central midfielders) does break forward when we've got the ball in the final third. It paid off.”

Stephens then looked ahead to Albion’s crucial league match against West Bromwich Albion and despite making progress in the FA Cup, the midfielder stressed that achieving Premier League survival remains the top priority.  

"That is the more important game (WBA). The game in the FA Cup is good for us and for the lads that have not been playing, but the league is obviously our bread and butter and the main focus. That is going to be more important.

"They are in a position they don't want to be in. Every game is an opportunity to kick-start a run of games where they are going to get themselves out of it.

"We are still in that group of teams. We are not veering away from what we need to achieve. We need to pick up more points. It's a good game for us as well.”

A win over West Brom would move the Seagulls ten points clear of the Baggies, and the midfielder believes there is more than enough quality within the squad to stay in the top flight.

"It will be tight from now until the end. We knew it would be like that. But we are not at the bottom, we are still mid-table. We've got a good opportunity at the weekend to stretch the margin and that's what we have to do, look at every game individually and just build from there.

"I think our squad is strong enough, I've said that before. But it would be nice to get a boost if we get a fresh face in.

"I'm confident with the squad we've got at the moment that we can achieve what we want to achieve and stay in this division."


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