Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens felt the team’s game plan almost delivered the goods against Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday evening, and urged his team-mates to take confidence from their hard-working display.
Christian Eriksen’s 88th-minute strike broke Albion’s defensive resolve after frustrating the hosts on their home patch, and Stephens identified the fine margins that prevented the Seagulls from claiming a precious point.
He said, “We had a game plan and we almost carried it out to a tee — we were a block away from a very good point.
“There were a lot of tired bodies towards the end of the game and we probably didn’t get out to Eriksen’s shot as quickly as we did in the first half.
“We knew it would be difficult, so we had to frustrate their team and crowd, and then try to break from that.
“It’s a disappointing feeling to not come away with anything, but we take a bit of confidence from the game and we now move on.”
The tough-tackling midfielder commented on Albion’s defensive strategy that was cruelly denied a share of the spoils, before praising two of his team-mates for their commitment towards shielding Maty Ryan’s goal.
“We’ve had two tough away games and the approach for both was to be hard to beat — that’s what we’ve built our squad around for the last two years," he continued.
“The job is probably more simple [against the better teams]. You know you’ve got to surrender possession, so it makes the task a little more straight-forward and we play on the counter-attack.
“I thought Lewis [Dunk] was outstanding, alongside [Shane] Duffy as well and they showed against Spurs that they’re top players.
“We knew we had to defend for large parts and we almost accepted crosses coming into the box because we could rely on those two.”
The Seagulls welcome Newcastle United to the Amex Stadium on Saturday in the first of three crucial matches between now and the end of the campaign, and Stephens fully understands the magnitude of Albion’s Premier League run-in.
“We’ve had some difficult results and conceded a fair few goals, but it’s in our own hands, we’re still on track to achieve what we set out to do at the start of the campaign.
“Saturday is an opportunity for us in front of our home fans to get three points. We’ve shown over the last two games that we can compete, and we’ve now got three huge games coming up.”