Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton was left feeling encouraged by his team’s second-half performance against Newcastle United at the Amex Stadium, as they came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw in their fight to remain in the Premier League.
The Seagulls found themselves a goal behind after a below-par opening 45 minutes on the south coast, but a 75th-minute header from Pascal Gross levelled the scores to move Albion four points clear of the relegation zone.
Hughton made four changes to the starting line-up, also changing to a 4-4-2 formation, and the Albion boss assessed his team’s contrasting displays either side of the break.
He said, “That performance probably sums up how we’ve been — a little bit fragile at both ends, not looking like scoring or creating too much, and a little bit vulnerable.
“But what I can say is the reaction from the team in the second half is what you want to see — a team that knew we were up against it and needed to get something from the game.
“We played a 4-4-2, which we haven't played too often, and we had to change that because it wasn’t working as well as I would have liked — we weren’t able to get the press on the ball.
“Newcastle are a good team in good form, and if you afford them too much space, they can hurt you. They hurt us with the goal and were far better than us in the first half.
“But it was a good second-half performance and they showed lots of spirit. When Glenn [Murray] had the opportunity towards the end, I thought we had done it.”
Solly March replaced Florin Andone at half-time, as the Seagulls switched to a 4-4-1-1, and Hughton was delighted with the response his players gave to claw their way back into the contest.
“It’s about energy — we certainly showed more energy in the second half. The shape gave us that extra player in the middle of the park, which gives you that little bit more possession.
“You’re after individuals to step up, Solly was very good when he came on, Bernardo on the left flank got high and wide — you get a feel and a momentum in the game.
“When the momentum is changing, anything is possible. What you need in that period of time is a goal to get us back in the game, and I thought we deserved it.”
Due to Albion’s 14-goal advantage over Cardiff City in the league table, it looks like the Bluebirds will need to win both of their remaining matches, but Hughton backed his players to focus on their visit to Arsenal next weekend.
“We’re hoping that the goal has made a big difference, but you can’t afford to think that way.
“Cardiff are a very spirited team, they showed that here, and they are fighting. They are capable of winning their next two games.
“We have to go to Arsenal not thinking that we can’t get something, but thinking we might have to get something and how we can do that.”