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NICK SZCZEPANIK'S PRESS VERDICT: WOLVES

21 April 2019

Paul Hazlewood
Nick Szczepanik reviews the media's coverage of Saturday's game.

The Midlands press pack can be fiercely loyal to the clubs that they cover, but they know their football.

So instead of criticising Wolves’ failure to score in the goalless draw at Molineux, most recognised that Albion had worked hard to gain a point that most described, quite correctly, as ‘precious’ – although we may not know exactly how precious for a while.

Stuart James of The Observer, for instance, wrote: “The wait for a goal goes on – 35 days and counting – but all that matters for now is that Brighton have stopped the rot.

“Chris Hughton had called on his players to show resilience and togetherness between now and the [end] of the season and both were in evidence when Brighton picked up a precious point to end a run of five successive defeats and edge a step clearer of the relegation zone.

“Defensive from the first minute to the last, Brighton got exactly what they came for. It made for a desperately poor spectacle yet no one in Brighton colours was complaining.

“The travelling fans, who were bathed in sunshine, greeted the final whistle with huge cheers. Brighton are now three points clear of Cardiff, who are 18th in the table, with four games to play – three of which are against Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City.

“Wolves, in short, was a game that Brighton could not afford to lose and they played with that mindset throughout.

“With 10 players generally behind the ball, Brighton were disciplined, organised and compact and Wolves never had enough about them to find a way through.”

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John Percy of the Sunday Telegraph was slightly more exasperated.

“Park the bus? Brighton brought the entire fleet to Molineux,” he wrote.

“It is nearly ten hours since Brighton last scored a goal, but this point will feel like unearthing gold bullion for manager Chris Hughton in his battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

“Brighton’s alarming run of defeats has finally come to an end after escaping from Wolverhampton Wanderers with a draw which takes them three points clear of the dreaded dotted line.

“It was desperate, tragic stuff at times for Hughton’s strugglers, who have sleepwalked into a grim relegation scrap, with goalkeeper Mat Ryan producing a remarkable late save to deny Wolves substitute Leander Dendoncker.

“But this will feel like a sorely needed positive for the Seagulls, after five straight defeats, with rivals Cardiff facing a daunting test against title contenders Liverpool on Sunday

“Wolves’ hangover from the agonising FA Cup semi-final defeat to Watford shows no signs of shifting after this excruciating afternoon, damaging Nuno Espirito Santo’s hopes of securing a European place.

“Nuno’s team dominated for long periods but just could not find the crucial breakthrough as Brighton clung on by their fingernails.

“It is now 570 minutes since Brighton last scored a goal, in the final minute of normal time of their FA Cup tie at Millwall on March 17.

"Boring, boring, boring," chanted the exasperated Wolves fans at the final whistle, but Hughton will not care one bit.

“He said: ‘This feels like a really good point considering the position we’re in. The overall feeling is one of relief because I’m not sure many people would have backed us to get any type of result.

"’We are lacking a bit of confidence and are finding it hard to score goals but if we show determination like we did here we will give ourselves a chance.

"’I’m just hoping we can take value from this until the end of the season. The only reason we were able to get the result was because of what the players put in.

"’At this stage of the season, with four games left, it’s all about getting enough points to get over the line.’”

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Graeme Bryce of The Sun also heard the Wolves fans’ reactions. He wrote: “Brighton manned the barricades and battled their way to a crucial point to ease the pressure on Chris Hughton.

“Frustrated Wolves fans taunted the Seagulls with chants of ‘Boring, boring,’ and ‘That’s why you’re going down,’ long before the end of this dismal affair.

“However it would have sounded like music to Hughton’s ears as his defiant defenders put up the shutters - even if they did have to survive a couple of major scares.

“Just before half-time Diogo Jota reacted to a deflected shot from Ruben Neves and instinctively diverted the ball goalwards with his outstretched right boot.

“The ball spiralled into the air and over Mat Ryan but, to the Aussie stopper’s relief it bounced on to the top of his crossbar and plopped safely over.

“Then with 16 minutes left Jota came even closer when he flicked a Jimenez cross beyond Ryan with his forehead but cursed his luck again as the ball bounced back off the far post.

“Somehow Ryan managed to block out Leander Dendoncker as he tried to force the ball over the line in the ensuing scramble.

“However Hughton has crucially stopped the recent rot which had afflicted his side, who had lost their last five games in all competitions without scoring.

“The Seagulls had also lost nine of their last 12 leagues games and had been dumped upon from a great height, conceding seven goals in their last two home games against Bournemouth and - even more alarmingly - relegation rivals Cardiff.

“But this marked a return to basics for Hughton - boring or not – and he will have been delighted with this hard-earned point.”

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Tim Farmery in the Mail On Sunday wrote: “Flooding midfield, scrapping for every ball, relying on a goalkeeping masterclass from Mat Ryan, all while avoiding the opponent’s half - have Brighton found a formula that may just be enough for them to survive?

“Well, against Wolves it worked, but only just. It is unlikely that they will get away with such an approach when they travel to Tottenham on Tuesday.

“Or, indeed, Arsenal and Manchester City over the last two weeks of the season. But by then they may have accumulated enough points to stay up, even if it is now six games without scoring a goal and just one win in nine.

“But it is pretty dreadful stuff to watch and is a symptom of the trouble they have found themselves in over the last few weeks. Their form has tanked and the goals dried up.

“So, this 0-0 draw must be viewed as a positive. A precious point and a first clean sheet away from home in 12 games, which they must be praised for even if it came against a Wolves side that were unlike their usual potent selves.

“‘We certainly got a reaction,’ said Hughton. ‘I’m just hoping we take something from the manner of the result against talented players. We showed work ethic and determination, anything less would have got nothing’.”

 

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Jordan Seward of Mail Online noted, alongside a heat map that showed an empty pitch, that “Brighton midfielder Davy Propper failed to make a single touch [before] he limped off at Wolves after just 10 minutes.

“The Dutchman is one of Brighton's more creative central midfielders but couldn't influence the game at all in the short time he was on the pitch.

“According to Opta, that is a feat no outfield Premier League player who has started a match has repeated since Jason Roberts nine years ago.

“The former Granada international also suffered a similar fate to Propper when playing for Blackburn Rovers against West Ham in December 2010.

“The forward also failed to touch the ball as he was forced off with an injury just 10 minutes into the game.”


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