With fans returning to Premier League matches for the first time since early March last weekend, there was a big opportunity for teams to win a game in front of their own fans. Granted there was nothing there for the away team, but for all the sheer relief in seeing people watching live football was in itself progress at last.
Brighton & Hove Albion could not take advantage of their home support on Monday evening despite starting well enough in the South Coast derby against Southampton.
Around two thousand fans were inside the Amex Stadium hoping to see their team pick up three much needed points but once again VAR left its mark on the game with the focus centring around the decision to award the visitors a penalty when Solly March was adjudged to have fouled Kyle Walker-Peters inside the box despite the match referee David Coote originally awarding a free kick.
Whilst VAR seems as contentious as it has been since its inception it has taken some deflection away from the fact the Seagulls should have comfortably beaten their rivals. A fantastic headed equaliser from Sander Vestergaard just before the half time whistle breathed life into a substandard Saints first half in which the home side looked comfortable and should have had more to show than a solitary Pascal Gross penalty.
The introduction of Danny Ings, back from a hamstring injury, certainly gave the Seagulls defence more to think about than the first forty-five minutes but seemed to lift the whole team performance on the back of the Vestergaard goal.
Brighton’s philosophy under Graham Potter is one of playing football in the right way, playing through the team from the back and only going more direct when needs must. There is some discontent however that the team haven’t moved that far forward from the days of Chris Hughton despite Potter having more talent at his disposal and after this latest defeat the Seagulls are just four points off the relegation places having picked up less than a point per game played.
There is certainly lots of endeavour within the Brighton ranks, they don’t lack in talent, two sharp busy forwards in Aaron Connelly and Neal Maupay backed up by the experienced Danny Welbeck, pace and enthusiasm in Ben White and Tariq Lamptey whilst Lewis Dunk has the experience to hold the back line together but something isn’t quite clicking at the Amex.
Unable to defend set pieces and unable to convert the chances they do create means the Seagulls are yet to win at home this season, indeed they haven’t won a home game at the Amex in their last ten attempts and only the poor form of West Brom, Sheffield Utd, Burnley and Fulham are keeping the South Coast side from falling further down the table.
The one advantage they do have over those four sides is a far better goal difference but it’s points on the board they really need over the next few weeks.
Despite a tough trip to Leicester City tomorrow, they have a really good chance before Christmas to put some distance between themselves and the four teams below them as they face both Fulham and Sheffield Utd in consecutive games before the festive period, failure to pick up at least four points from those two games will certainly heap pressure onto Potter.
By the end of the year after also facing West Ham and Arsenal, Brighton will head into 2021 either with work to do or be in a slightly better place than they are currently, but will need a lot more conviction in what they do to ensure the new year begins in good shape.
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37