An entertaining stalemate on the Sussex coast ended with Town taking a much-deserved point back up North as the home side were reduced to 10-men for the last 15 minutes.
Impressive performances all-round contributed to a Town showing which may well have deserved all three points. Jonas Lössl’s unfortunate own goal from a Solly March strike was cancelled out by Steve Mounié in a first half which saw Town the side with the momentum heading into the interval having withstood a barrage of Seagulls pressure in the early exchanges. The exceptional Terrier work rate shone throughout the duration, with another Premier League point secured.
In a relieving contrast of conditions compared to the outing in the North East a week previous, Town’s starting side witnessed three changes in the hunt for a first ever victory at the Amex.
Tommy Smith made way for Florent Hadergjonaj, whilst Steve Mounié got the nod over Laurent Depoitre to lead the line. An enforced final change saw Tom Ince replace Elias Kachunga, who suffered a season-ending injury at St James’ Park.
It was Chris Hughton’s Seagulls who flew out of the traps. Dutch International Davy Propper was sent through the middle un-challenged, and having sprung the offside trap, the midfielder flashed wide of the target under pressure from the recovering Florent Hadergjonaj.
The encounter had began with an electric intensity; Brighton’s succession of early corners came to nothing, whereas Steve Mounié initiated Town’s opening chance of the match with a rasping volley from the edge of the area which was ultimately batted away by Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
Having soaked up a mini onslaught in the opening five minutes, the ‘flash’ kit wearing Terriers displayed the intent of coming away from Sussex with a reward.
A combination of Rajiv van La Parra and Aaron Mooy descended on a sloppy Ezequiel Schelotto free-kick just inside the Seagulls’ half to instigate a lightning break.
The ball eventually worked it’s way over to Tom Ince, who managed to cut inside but found his effort blocked. Aaron Mooy reacted quickest to the rebound, but was the next man to find a home player- in this case National team compatriot Matt Ryan- in defiant mood to keep the Terriers at bay for the time being at least.
But as expected, back came Albion, who themselves were looking to respond to a previous week’s defeat which occurred in a 2-0 showing against Leicester.
Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo- a big-money signing for the Seagulls from Belgian outfit Club Brugge- darted beyond the Town defensive line, and received a return pass from Propper to be granted a one-on-one opportunity against Jonas Lössl.
Nonetheless, Town’s Danish custodian between the sticks prevailed, and quickly rushed off his line to smother in the nick of time before Izquierdo could stab home.
Izquierdo once more found an opening. The winger was shepherded out of play masterfully by Zanka before the decisive cross towards Glenn Murray could materialise.
Personal battles were shaping up to be of a rather large magnitude as the first half rumbled on; Terence Kongolo and Solly March in particular, with both going to great lengths in order to get the better of one another which really brought the best out of both players in their respective roles.
An Alex Pritchard corner was met by Zanka at the near post, but with no arriving Terrier able to convert, the chance would go begging and result in Brighton taking the lead having raced up the other end via a slice of luck in centre field.
A ricochet allowed Pascal Gross to pick out the run of Izquierdo wide left, and as the tricky winger danced inside, the ball eventually was spread out to Solly March.
March checked onto his left foot, unleashing a direct effort in the process. The initial effort was blocked by Jonas Lössl, but the Town number one couldn’t manage to keep the follow-up rebound off the post from going over the line. Brighton had the lead; but not for long.
The perfect response to going behind was Steve Mounié taking advantage of a weak Shane Duffy back-pass to round Mat Ryan and slot home his 9th goal of the season- a third against the Seagulls- hauling the Terriers crucially level just minutes after falling behind in cruel circumstances.
Game well and truly back on, to the delight of the superb contingent of 2000+ travelling band of hardy Town supporters.
If that wasn’t enough, that magnificent support may well have been celebrating another shortly after that leveller arrived.
Alex Pritchard’s incisive through ball to Rajiv van La Parra saw the latter fizz an inviting cross for goal-scorer Mounié, but as the Benin striker was marginally beaten to the punch by an Albion defender, the unlikely figure of Jonathan Hogg- who had so far taken up his tenacious duties with aplomb- swung viciously with his left foot aiming for the top corner to no avail.
The balance of play had really swung wide open, and it was David Wagner’s men who were in the ascendancy as the half-time whistle beckoned.
It was evident to notice the concentration on every single one of the players in black and red, both with and without the ball- especially in the way of being wary to nullify any quick counter advances with which the home side would to capitalise.
The lively theme continued the other side of the break. Town were increasingly sharp in possession, with neat moves aplenty which more than kept the home back four on their toes whilst denying the lurking presence of Mounié another chance to get on the scoresheet.
At the other end, Brighton’s first real chance of the half came courtesy of Lewis Dunk’s looping header from a Solly March free-kick after Florent Hadergjonaj committed a foul outside of the area. Home skipper Dunk watched his back-stick cushioned attempt drop the wrong side of Jonas Lössl’s right post.
Dunks returned to his native central defensive unit, as Mat Ryan made up substantial ground to hoof away after once more receiving a shortish backpass from the men located in-front.
That clearance established a chance to attack with Izquierdo, and as the Colombian’s cross was cleared, Dale Stephens graciously accepted the rebound on the edge of the 18-yard area. Stephens- a long-term Seagulls absentee- forced Jonas Lössl into a save, and the Dane tipped over out of harms way.
Steve Mounié was a man on a mission; the forward latched onto most things sent his way, including a deep Florent Hadergjonaj cross which saw the big striker leap like a salmon over Shane Duffy to instigate a towering header- the end result sailing agonisingly over Ryan’s cross-bar.
Just over 15 minutes to go, and as both sides pushed for that elusive winner, Albion were reduced to ten men, as Davy Propper was shown a straight red card by referee Anthony Taylor for a challenge on Jonathan Hogg.
Brighton would have a huge chance to regain the lead in the aftermath of the sending off. Izquierdo sprinted on to a rebound which broke kindly with a clear path to goal, with only Lössl to beat. Town’s keeper came out on top, forcing the lively winger off course to allow Zanka to recover and clear.
Schelotto followed up with a curling right-footed attempt, only to be again denied by the strong wrists of Lössl, resulting in a corner from which Shane Duffy powerfully headed over and out of trouble.
Jonathan Hogg failed to shake off the knock picked up in the collision with Propper, paving the way for Philip Billing to appear off the bench to make his 50th Huddersfield Town appearance.
With a man advantage, Town took the game to the host. Zanka came within a whisker of sending the Town faithful into ecstacy, but flashed a near-post header across the face of goal to which no Town man could inevitably reach.
Four added on minutes commenced, and still the Terriers probed an opening. Aaron Mooy fired from distance, albeit tamely, as compatriot Ryan gathered with comfort.
Substitute Collin Quaner had a late, late chance right at the very end to send all three points back up to West Yorkshire. The German couldn’t adjust his feet adequately in order to force Ryan into a save, and in turn slammed the ball into the side netting to let the home side off the hook with a point.
David Wagner will no doubt be suitably pleased with his sides performance; excellent tenacity, creativity in possession, and an outright desire in the battle to stay in the Premier League. Town return to action in HD1 next Saturday with a visit of Watford (April 14, 3pm).
TOWN (4-2-3-1): Jonas Lössl; Terence Kongolo, Christopher Schindler, Mathias Zanka, Florent Hadergjonaj; Jonathan Hogg (c) (Philip Billing, 81’), Aaron Mooy; ,Rajiv van La Parra (Collin Quaner, 89’), Alex Pritchard, Tom Ince (Laurent Depoitre, 90’); Steve Mounié
UNUSED SUBS: Joel Coleman, Tommy Smith, Scott Malone, Chris Lowe, Laurent Depoitre
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION: Mat Ryan; Gaetan Bong, Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk (c), Ezequiel Schelotto; Jose Izquierdo, Davy Propper, Dale Stephens, Solly March; Pascal Gross (Beram Kayal, 76’), Glenn Murray (Leonardo Ulloa, 67’)
UNUSED SUBS: Tim Krul, Bruno Saltor, Connor Goldson, Jurgen Locadia, Sam Baldock
REFEREE: Anthony Taylor