The final game of what has been an epic season at the AMEX saw Brighton take on Birmingham. A win for the Blues would guarantee a play-off spot, whilst the Seagulls were playing for pride, and a top ten finish.
Neither side were at their best but Brighton are now without a win in seven matches whilst Birmingham are unbeaten in eight.
The Seagulls started the first half the brightest, Will Buckley nearly opened the scoring shortly after 10 minutes, latching onto Vicente’s well placed lofted pass putting him one-on-one with keeper Colin Doyle. Buckley fired his shot low but Doyle got down quick enough to parry the ball over the net and out for a corner.
The game was then disrupted several times due to rash challenges from Birmingham players leading to several injuries to Brighton players. Blues manager, Chris Hughton, brought on Nathan Redmond for the booked Gomis (who was in danger of being sent off) on the stroke of the half hour and was forced to shift his players around.
The changes didn’t seem to affect the Blues but they nearly allowed a soft goal from a Seagulls free kick shortly after. Vicente’s perfect floating delivery found Joe Mattock un-marked at the far post, but he could only find the side netting. Nathan Redmond then went even closer on the stroke of half time, the lively winger cut in from the right and his resulting shot only narrowly went past Brezovan’s post.
At the start of the second half, Brighton showed their attacking threat once more. Alan Navarro’s shot from distance tested Doyle to his limits, the Birmingham keep forced to dive at full stretch to tip the ball round the post and keep the scores at 0-0.
The game then settled into its rhythm with both sides cancelling each other out. The game seemed destined for a draw but for a moment of quality from Nathan Redmond. Marlon King brilliantly controlled a huge clearance from Doyle on the edge of the box, squared the ball to Redmond who had the time and space to power the ball into the far corner out of the reach of Brezovan, to send a record away contingent wild.
Gus Poyet didn’t take long to make changes. The more attack minded Gary Dicker replaced Navarro and winger Craig Noone came on in the place of left back Joe Mattock.
With just over five minutes remaining, Brighton were back on level terms and ensured the final game of the season at the AMEX ended on a positive note. Inigo Calderon, captaining the side for the second successive game, made a great overlapping run down the right wing, the Spaniard then cut the ball back to Ashley Barnes, in acres of space in the box. The striker kept his cool to pass the ball into the net, his 14th goal of the season.
A point in the end was enough for Birmingham, who have secured their place in the play-offs. The point was also the least Brighton deserved after a good performance against promotion hopefuls with plenty of Premier League quality in their side. The Seagulls can potentially finish 8th at the end of the season if they can get three points away to Barnsley and other their results go their way. But no matter what, it has been a stunning first season at the AMEX, and there will surely be many more to come.
Brighton - 01 Brezovan, 02 Mattock (Noone – 72′), 05 Dunk, 06 El-Abd, 14 Calderon, 08 Navarro, (Dicker – 72′), 15 Vicente, 26 Bridcutt, 30 Buckley, 09 Barnes, 12 Mackail-Smith.
Subs - 16 Ankergren, 36 Jara Reyes, 11 Noone, 18 Dicker, 24 Vokes.
Birmingham - 13 Doyle, 03 Murphy, 05 Pablo, 06 Ramage, 24 Davies, 07 Burke, 10 Huseklepp (Townsend – 63′), 12 Mutch, 14 Gomis (Redmond – 32′), 15 Elliott, 09 King (Zigic – 84′).
Subs - 26 Butland, 11 Townsend, 22 Redmond, 28 Hughton, 19 Zigic.