Norwich 2-0 Brighton Five Things We Learnt: Lethargic Seagulls

A hapless evening for Stockdale – bbc.co.uk

Two freakish own goals from Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale saw the Seagulls miss out on securing the Championship title, in a 2-0 defeat at Norwich – but what have we learnt from the game?

Norwich’s bright start

Norwich started the game well and attacked down the right. Ivo Pinto and Steven Naismith worked in tandem, ably supported by the influential Alex Pritchard and Jonny Howson. Given freedom to buzz around the pitch by the more disciplined Graham Dorrans, Howson crossed to the back-post but Nelson Oliveira could not make the right contact on five minutes.

Stockdale’s on fire

Though Norwich looked in control for much of the first half, they did not register a shot on target. Harshly, one might suggest that their best goalscorer was Brighton’s Stockdale. On 18 and 39 minutes, shots from Pritchard cannoned off Stockdale’s right and left posts respectively, before falling onto the goalkeeper’s back and into the net. A more sympathetic suggestion would be that Stockdale was a tad unlucky, having covered the initial efforts, that both shots rebounded into the wrong areas at the wrong times.

Visitors off the pace

Stockdale might feel Naismith and Pritchard could have been closed down better by midfielders Steve Sidwell and Oliver Norwood, who were slow to engage with the ball all evening. Glenn Murray could not hold onto the ball for long enough to help the midfield up the pitch while partner Jamie Murphy did not look comfortable in a central role. Chris Hughton’s side had dropped their standards a fraction after promotion and produced a flat performance.

Brighton’s moments

As lethargic and passive as Brighton were, they still created a few reasonable openings. In the first half, Knockaert had a shot deflected wide and John Ruddy had to save two headers from Uwe Hunemeier. Murphy, who himself headed off-target at the far post early on, could have won a penalty for a trip by Dorrans. The south coast side had a brief spell of pressure in the second half, during which Murray had a header well cleared off the line by Howson, though the striker’s other efforts failed to trouble Ruddy.

What it means… erm…

Far from the promotion-decider this fixture threatened to be six months ago, the match served only to delay Brighton’s title celebrations. It also made Norwich the division’s joint-top scorers, with 13 goals and three wins in their last four games. Their display was controlled rather than swashbuckling, victory helped by luck as well as judgement. Had this performance come at the AMEX in October however, when the Canaries instead caved in to a 5-0 defeat, the significance of the reverse fixture could have had a greater impact on the Championship promotion race.