Our Brighton and Hove Albion FC correspondent Patrick Gleeson reports on the Seagulls’ defeat by Sheffield Wednesday.
Albion fell to their first league loss of the calendar year after a somewhat toothless display allowed Sheffield Wednesday to record their second consecutive victory and climb to 18th.
Leroy Lita had put the hosts ahead before Ashley Barnes was sent off for a nasty challenge, and Danny Pugh took full advantage by hammering home from the resulting free kick.
Andrea Orlandi pulled one back for the visitors in the second half but Michail Antonio hit back almost instantly from a corner to ensure Wednesday of the 3 points.
Albion went into the game in the clutch of sides just beneath the play-off places, but fell behind after just 5 minutes. Antonio’s inviting cross was met by the lurking Lita who vollied past a helpless Tomasz Kuszczak from close range.
Leonardo Ulloa almost levelled the game shortly after on his first league appearance for the Seagulls, but Chris Kirkland was on hand to deny the Argentine striker.
As Albion looked to be getting a foothold into the game they were dealt a major blow. Ashley Barnes, who was notably frustrated with the referee not awarding him a free kick moments earlier, was shown a straight red for his challenge on Kieran Lee.
When the free kick was finally drilled in, Danny Pugh latched onto it and smashed the ball into the net to double the Owls’ lead.
Gus Poyet introduced Craig Mackail-Smith for the second half with Liam Bridcutt being the unlucky sacrifice, and it looked to have been a stroke of genius when Orlandi pulled a goal back. Mackail-Smith powered down the right-wing and picked out the Spaniard with an alluring pass, which he was all too happy to convert.
However, less than 90 seconds after the goal Wednesday reclaimed their 2-goal advantage. Antonio reacted quickest in a goalmouth scramble from a corner and got enough on it to claim his seventh of the season.
The game was stained, however, when the two benches got involved in an altercation in the 70th minute. A horrific challenge on Inigo Calderon by Danny Pugh was what sparked the incident which eventually saw Owls boss Dave Jones and Brighton’s Charlie Oatway sent to the stands.
Albion drop one place to eight as a result of the defeat, but remain just five points behind Middlesbrough who occupy sixth.