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NICK SZCZEPANIK'S PRESS VERDICT: WEST BROMWICH ALBION

27 January 2019

Paul Hazlewood
The press verdict from Albion's match against West Bromwich Albion.
So it’s a midweek trip to The Hawthorns for an FA Cup replay after the goalless draw in the battle of the Albions. And none of the media failed to spot that that was just about the last thing either side had wanted.
 
Ed Elliott of the Press Association hit the nail on the head in his intro. "Brighton face an unwanted FA Cup fourth-round replay after failing to break down stubborn Sky Bet Championship opponents West Brom in a goalless draw at the Amex Stadium," he wrote.
 
"The Seagulls, whose main priority is Premier League survival, struck a post through Dale Stephens but were unable to capitalise on their 24 attempts at goal.
 
"An inexperienced Baggies side played their part in a competitive cup tie and almost sprung a surprise when Tosin Adarabioyo headed against the crossbar with 18 minutes remaining.”
 
 
He blamed the stalemate on the visitors’ lack of firepower and the performance of Jonathan Bond, their goalkeeper.
 
"The visitors’ experimental starting XI had managed just seven goals between them in all competitions this season, with stand-in captain Robson-Kanu claiming three of those.
 
"Darren Moore’s side, backed by more than 3,000 travelling fans, began the second period in positive fashion, but, after Harper sent a stinging effort whistling past the right post, they almost fell behind in the 58th minute.
 
"Seagulls midfielder Stephens took aim with a curling attempt from around 30 yards out which brushed the fingertips of Bond before striking the left upright.
 
"West Brom also hit the woodwork in their attempts to break the deadlock when Manchester City loanee Adarabioyo directed a towering header against the crossbar from Wes Hoolahan’s inviting free-kick.
 
"Brighton substitute Viktor Gyokeres, off the bench in place of fellow forward Jurgen Locadia, was then denied his first senior goal after his low effort at the end of jinking run was repelled by Bond."
 
 
Ian Winrow, in the Sunday Times, noted Seagulls boss Chris Hughton’s claims that the officials, both in the stadium and studying VAR, had failed to deal with a valid penalty claim.
 
"Chris Hughton was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Sussex this week," he wrote. "Unfortunately for the Brighton manager, that proved to be the highlight of his week.
 
"Back at the day job, Hughton was left frustrated as his side failed to break down a much-changed West Bromwich Albion side whose priority lies with the Championship promotion race, leaving them to face the prospect of an FA Cup fourth round replay.
 
“It might easily have been worse for Hughton and his players had Tosin Adarabioyo’s 71st minute header from Wes Hoolahan’s free-kick not struck the crossbar although the manager was convinced his side had a convincing claim for a penalty ignored despite the presence of VAR.
 
"Hughton believed Jurgen Locadia was held back by Kyle Bartley as he followed up after Dale Stephens’ 58th minute shot was pushed onto the post although the incident was overlooked by the match officials.
 
"'On a day where we were picked as a VAR game and incidents that should be picked out, we saw it on the side and even if the referee hasn't seen it, Locadia has gone down in the box,’ said the Brighton manager.
 
"'The fact that he's gone down in the box then that's one that should be picked up. We've seen it again, it looks like a penalty'."
 
 
Adam Shergold of the Mail on Sunday suggested that the time has come to look again at replays of the non-video kind.
 
"Of course replays are part of the wonderful fabric of the FA Cup,” he wrote. “All those flashbacks to Arsenal vs Manchester United in 1999 and that Ryan Giggs wondergoal last week reminded us of that.
 
"But there are occasions when it is best for all concerned to agree to play an extra 30 minutes, followed by penalties if necessary, to avoid the inconvenience of one.
 
"Both Chris Hughton and Darren Moore protested after this goalless stalemate that they didn't mind an additional fixture at The Hawthorns in 10 days' time.
 
"But surely the last thing Brighton and West Brom need right now is another energy-sapping distraction from their respective league aspirations?
 
"The fact West Brom, chasing an immediate return to the Premier League, made nine changes and Brighton, seeking to preserve their top-flight status, six told you everything you needed to know about priorities.
 
"If this tie had come a round later, it would have gone straight to extra time. But the gradual and sensible paring back of FA Cup replays has not yet reached back to the fourth round. Surely it's a matter of time.
 
"'I'm not one to mess around with the rules,' said Hughton on the replays subject. 'In the latter stages it should be finished on the day but this is a cup competition everyone wants to stay in.'
 
"His West Brom counterpart Darren Moore agreed: 'It isn't a hindrance because there is huge admiration for the FA Cup at West Brom. Both teams tried to win the game but we couldn't break the deadlock’.” 
 
 
The Birmingham Mail reported that “the Premier League side bossed the first half, but it was far more even after the break when West Brom threatened on the counter.
 
"Rekeem Harper and Hal Robson-Kanu, who captained the visitors, were the only survivors from the 2-0 win at Bolton on Monday night.
 
"The squad will have delighted all associated with the club’s youth programme with seven academy products involved, four in the line-up and three on the bench.
 
"The Baggies have an extra fixture in an already busy February, but it’s not likely to impact on the first team if Moore continues the same strategy in selection.”
 
Visiting goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, who made excellent saves from Dale Stephens and Viktor Gyokeres, spoke to the Baggies’ official website:
 
"I was really happy," he said. "I was quite busy to be fair, but you can expect that, really, coming to a good side like Brighton.
 
“I thought the lads defended really well and, like I said, it was end-to-end. It was a good game for the neutral, even though it was 0-0, I think everyone can be happy and from a goalkeeping perspective I was definitely happy as well.
 
"Today was one of those days when I had some stuff to do and the playing out is difficult when there are so many changes in the team, but I thought we dealt with that really well as well.
 
"It's a good result considering we made a lot of changes, a lot of young lads - and they had a strong team as well," Bond added.
 
"They are unbelievable really, some of the talent here. You can see it in training straight away, so it's not a surprise when they come and do that.” 
 
 
 
 
Tim Oscroft on the BBC website suggested that the home Albion should have made the tie safe in the first half.
 
"Seagulls manager Chris Hughton made six changes to the side that lost to Manchester United last Saturday but his cup selection still had plenty of opportunities to wrap up this tie against a team with nine changes from its last outing,” he wrote.
 
"Yves Bissouma and Beram Kayal forced Bond into good saves, but the visiting keeper, playing only his second game of the season, looked nervous at some of Brighton's frequent first-half corners.
 
"Florin Andone's air-shot before half-time also let West Brom off the hook, and after the resumption the away side looked a different proposition as the game opened up."
 
On to The Hawthorns …

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