Our Brighton and Hove Albion FC correspondent Patrick Gleeson reports on the Seagulls’ trip to Birmingham.
Albion were left feeling frustrated at the final whistle in their 2-2 draw against Birmingham City this afternoon.
Ashley Barnes’ second goal in as many games and a neat finish from David Lopez ruled out an 18th minute Steven Caldwell goal, but as the points looked to be on the way back the South Coast Nikola Zigic popped up and headed into the back of Tomasz Kuszczak’s net.
The point means Brighton are still unbeaten in the current calendar year, but the late goal is a real kick in the teeth to their play-off push and highlights the need to retain their high concentration levels for the entirety of the game rather than the first 85 minutes, which has happened all too much this season.
The game started in an end-to-end fashion with Blues keeper Jack Butland saving an ambitious Craig Mackail-Smith effort minutes before Chris Burke fired a curling shot wide of the Albion goal.
Some lacklustre defending was the cause of the opening goal, and burley defender Steven Caldwell was all too happy to take advantage. Whilst the visitors looked static as a Rob Hall corner flew into the box, Caldwell rose well and headed past the Albion goalkeeper.
Liam Bridcutt almost levelled the game instantly when his swirling effort flashed just wide, but Albion refused to let their heads drop. Andrea Orlandi’s clever pass found a determined Ashley Barnes just inside the Blues’ area and he lashed the ball past Jack Butland to equalise.
Wade Elliott then found Callum Reilly who smashed the ball inches over Kuszczak’s bar, but the Polish goalkeeper was soon forced into action after a vicious strike from Burke looked destined for the top corner, but an outstretched arm was enough to push the ball away.
As the half came to a close, a delicious delivery by Wayne Bridge was met by an oncoming Lopez who smashed the ball on the volley and into the back of the net to give the Seagulls the lead.
With the game nearing the hour mark, Zigic, who replaced Elliott at the interval, and Barnes were both forced to watch their headers float over at either end, before Andrea Orlandi’s whipped free kick was tipped over by Butland, but as the half grew older the Albion players became nervous.
Gary Dicker replaced Orlandi in an attempt to shore up the midfield, but it took a sensational last-gasp block from Gordon Greer to deny Zigic from a matter of yards in the dying minutes.
As the fourth official raised his board to indicate the 4 minutes of added time, Zigic latched onto a Marlon King cross and his header managed to wriggle through the fingers of Tomasz Kuszczak and trickle over the goal-line, much to the despair of the 1,222 Brighton fans who braved the snow and travelled to St Andrew’s.
A disappointing end to the game but with plenty of positives for Gus Poyet to concentrate on as attention now turns to the game at Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday evening at Ewood Park.