By Jamie Spoor
A woeful display of refereeing cost Brighton & Hove Albion the chance to move back into the top six as their Championship clash with Burnley descended into farce.
Photo courtesy of James Boyes.
Albion will feel that they were robbed of at least a point after some inexplicable refereeing decisions went against them, but their fans and players can be justly proud of their second-half efforts.
Brighton were looking for their fourth successive win at The Amex, while the Clarets, after three wins in their last four games, were hoping to move into the top half of the table.
Albion were forced to play all but the opening 12 minutes with nine men after everyone inside the Amex was left bemused at referee Craig Pawson’s questionable judgement.
Romain Vincelot was first dismissed for foul and abusive language when perhaps a booking, or maybe even just a talking to, would have sufficed.
Ashley Barnes soon followed suit after a coming-together with Marvin Bartley when if anything, the Burnley man looked the greater offender having grabbed the Albion winger around the throat.
Despite their numerical disadvantage , nine-man Albion tested the Clarets through substitute Craig Noone, who forced Lee Grant into a good reaction save, before the visitors made the breakthrough on 23 minutes.
Ben Mee’s cross was turned behind by Mauricco Taricco, and Wallace’s corner fell to Kieran Trippier, who fired home a low effort from 20 yards.
Noone had a strong penalty shout turned down when he appeared to have been tripped by Chris McCann, but referee Pawson continued to make himself unpopular.
Burnley created the better chances after the break however, with Ben Mee’s 35-yard strike producing a good save from Casper Ankergren and Ross Wallace was denied from long range by Alan Navarro’s brave block.
Albion’s gameplan of contain and counter attack appeared their best hope of salvaging something from the contest, and this almost paid dividends just past the hour mark.
Man of the match Noone broke down the left, and his cross flicked on to Taricco, who was unlucky to hit the side netting with his header.
With ten minutes remaining, Albion carved out three chances in quick succession as, spurred on by the sense of injustice, they pushed for a leveller.
Craig Mackail-Smith latched on to a long pass from the returning Adam El-Abd but volleyed against the post, and was then unlucky when his lob beat Grant but drifted narrowly wide.
Then, in injury time, the Scottish international had Albions’ best chance of the game.
Macknail-Smith brought the ball down over his shoulder, controlled on his chest and fired goalwards.
Grant did well to scramble away his first effort, and his second shot left the keeper stranded only for David Edgar to clear off the line.
Albion can be justly proud of their performance in great adversity, a sentiment echoed by manager Gus Poyet.
“I’m not going to comment on the referee, if I say anything I might get into trouble, I prefer to focus on my team.
“I was proud of my team and the fans tonight, we did everything we could, we just didn’t quite have enough, but it was a superb effort.”
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION: Ankergren; El-Abd, Greer, Dunk, Taricco; Vincelot, Bridcutt (Buckley 89), Harley (Noone 20); Barnes, Mackail-Smith, LuaLua (Navarro 20).
BURNLEY: Grant; Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee; Wallace, McCann, Marney, Bartley (Vokes 46); Paterson (Austin 66), Rodriguez.