Newcastle United Edge Brighton in Top of The Table Clash

Firstly what a great game of football and a great advert for Championship football. Normally when two of the top teams in a league meet it is a cagey affair with not much goalmouth action. Brighton vs Newcastle was different, a very open and enjoyable game. I say enjoyable – for fans of either side it was very nervy. Being a Newcastle fan myself, you could feel the importance of this game. For the neutrals that tuned in to watch last night, they would not have been disappointed with what they witnessed.

I mentioned a few times, I hoped England Manager Gareth Southgate would go to the AMEX and watch the game. There were some good English talent on show last night. Unsurprisingly the England manager was not in attendance.

Newcastle scored twice in the last 10 minutes to beat Brighton 2-1 to reclaim top spot in the Sky Bet Championship. Glenn Murray’s controversial early penalty put Brighton in control of the game, but the game changed when Mo Diame fortunately flicked his team level with a freak goal on 81 minutes. Brighton, who lost out in the play-offs last season, were rocked by the equaliser and substitute Ayoze Perez made it 2-1 in the 89th minute, sending the away fans home happy.

The result lifts Newcastle two points clear at the top of the table while Brighton sit six points ahead of in-form Huddersfield in third, who also have a game in hand. However, with 12 games left in the race for the Premier League, Newcastle’s fixtures are a lot tougher having still to face Huddersfield, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday on the road while Brighton’s run-in only involves one fixture against a team in the top six – against Leeds.

You would have to say, if Newcastle avoid defeat in their next to games against Huddersfield and Reading – they will be playing Premier League football again next season, barring a huge collapse.

Brighton named an unchanged side that comfortably beat promotion chasing Reading 3-0. Rafa Benitez sprung a surprise by naming Yoan Gouffran up front. He decided to leave Daryl Murphy and Aleksandar Mitrovic on the bench and start Christian Atsu and Yoan Gouffran with the emphasis clearly on testing the mobility of Brighton’s back four.

Brighton took the lead after 13 minutes, when an imaginative set-piece conjured up by Anthony Knockaert released Sam Baldock in behind. His effort from a tight angle was tipped wide by Karl Darlow and it was from the corner where Brighton got a game-changing decision. The corner was whipped in and found Lewis Dunk free at the back post. As Dunk headed the chance wide, the referee blew his whistle, seemingly for a foul committed by Murray who was tangling with Ciaran Clark. With both men on the floor in the six-yard box the referee pointed to the spot and Murray gleefully accepted the opportunity by sliding the penalty home.

It was yet another decision that Rafa Benitez will feel has gone against Newcastle this season. There is a strong feeling on Tyneside that refereeing decisions have cost Newcastle points on a number of occasions this season.

The game continued to ebb and flow at an exciting pace and Atsu had a golden chance to draw Newcastle level just before the break, he could only divert DeAndre Yedlin’s brilliant cross straight at Stockdale from 10 yards out.

Brighton could have made it 2-0 on a few occasions in the first five minutes of the second period. First, Dunk’s looping header was hooked clear over his own crossbar by Paul Dummett before Knockaert’s slippery work inside the area forced Darlow into another smart stop. Despite this being a match of great importance, nerves were in short supply for the large majority of the game but Stockdale almost handed Newcastle an equaliser on 55 minutes. He looked full of anxiety as he received a simple pass back and planted a pass straight to Gouffran, who just had to beat the goalkeeper from the edge of the area. However, Stockdale stood tall and blocked away the Frenchman’s weak effort. At that point Newcastle fans must have feared it wasn’t their night.

Benitez sent on Daryl Murphy to add some much needed muscle to his forward line on 75 minutes and he headed a very presentable chance straight at Stockdale from a Jonjo Shelvey corner two minutes later. Brighton didn’t heed the warning from that Shelvey set-piece and lost their lead with nine minutes to play. Shelvey’s corner was cleared out to Atsu, who hit a wayward shot that ricocheted off Diame and he could hardly believe his luck as it found the top corner.

Brighton started to sink deeper and Newcastle completed the turnaround with one minute remaining. Atsu was released down the right by Ritchie and his cross was turned home from close range by Perez, who had only been on the field for three minutes.

I have great admiration for Chris Hughton, I think he has done a superb job at Brighton and love the job he did at Newcastle during a difficult time. I hope Brighton go up automatically along with Newcastle, they deserve it. The AMEX was rocking last night, a fantastic atmosphere for a great game.