Romain Vincelot headed his first goal for Brighton to claim back-to-back victories at home and put the seasiders within a point of the play-off places.
In more ways than one, Brighton’s win felt like a return to tradition. It was the first Saturday 3pm kick-off at the Amex since August, and with Steve Harper heading back to Newcastle after a short loan spell, Casper Ankergren returned in goal for the Albion. Following Mauricio Taricco’s red card at Southampton last weekend, there was also a place in the starting line-up for Iñigo Calderon.
The match began with much of the same gusto as Brighton’s early season form. Craig Mackail-Smith was typically pouncing on to loose passes and chasing lost causes, and it only took seven minutes for his work to reap dividends.
The Scotland international intercepted a backpass from Sammy Clingan and despite his shot getting parried by the goalkeeper, the rebound hit Coventry defender Richard Keogh on the shin and the ball bounced unforgivingly into the net.
Gordon Greer should know the importance of playing it safe after an early goal, but his senseless cross-field pass gifted Coventry the ball and led to their equaliser just two minutes later.
Gary Gardner was making his debut after signing for the Sky Blues on loan from Aston Villa, and he leaped higher than the Brighton defence to head his first goal in the Football League.
For a Coventry side winless in seven games, they were desperately seeking an away point, but it was a substitute on the home side who would steal the headlines with an equally sublime header before half-time.
A free-kick from Liam Bridcutt met Romain Vincelot in the area who nodded across Joe Murphy’s goal and opened the Frenchman’s account for Gus Poyet’s team.
It was always doubtful that the second half would live up to the first, but Gardner came closest for Coventry in stoppage time with a near identical header that deflected past Ankergren’s right post.
Goalmouth action for the Seagulls was scarce in the latter stages, so the final whistle was met with huge comfort.
Brighton boss Poyet praised the versatility of Vincelot and his contribution as substitute: “It’s terrific that Romain can play in many positions and I’m really pleased because he always wants to play, like all footballers do.
“He can cover many different positions and it doesn’t really matter where he plays, a player like Romain just wants to be on the pitch.”
Moments after the final whistle the manager was already talking about their next opponents Derby County, and Poyet is understandably a bit anxious considering Brighton’s poor away form.
He said: “We have not been winning away from home but we have had some great chances to do that. We have not taken them and we need to take this game as another chance.”
Brighton are now tied in eighth place with 26 points, whilst Coventry remain in the relegation zone on 13.
Man of the Match: Craig Mackail-Smith
Albion: Ankergren; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, Painter (Vincelot 13); Bridcutt, Navarro, Harley (LuaLua 78); Noone, Paynter (Barnes 59), Mackail-Smith
Subs not used: Brezovan, Hoskins
Goals: Keogh 7 (og), Vincelot 37
Coventry City: Murphy; Christie (Wood 41), Keogh, Hussey, Cranie; Clingan, Gardner, Thomas (Bigirimana 53), Baker; Platt (McDonald 78), Jutkiewicz
Subs not used: Dunn, McSheffrey
Goals: Gardner 9
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 19,708 (1,791 Coventry City)