A balmy night in Brighton

As a disappointed Danny Ward trudged towards the away support after his error consigned Town to their first defeat of the season, they sang his name as if to put a metaphorical arm around him.

The supporters knew that a fantastic save by the Welshman after just 10 minutes of a game largely bereft of thrills had kept his side in the struggle against a strong, competent but largely unthreatening Brighton side still struggling to match their form from last season.

It was something of a surprise that there were no changes to the side which had completely subjugated Leeds at the weekend, as the victory had come at some physical cost with a handful of yellow cards, but it signalled an intent to try to replicate the performance, all be it against vastly superior opposition.

With Southern England sweltering in record temperatures for September, both sides were to be tested in Mediterranean conditions; a climate definitely conducive to travel on a depleted Southern trains service. Beautiful as Sussex is, the transport system is as poor as regular reports suggest.

In truth, the game had little to commend it with Town stifling their opponents for large swathes and, in particular, quelling the ever present threat of the mercurial Knockaert for all but a couple of moments.

With 10 minutes to go and a comfortable if boring 0-0 result seeming inevitable, the Frenchman was gifted a goal when his relatively tame shot spilled through Ward’s hands like a particularly greasy bar of soap. In 7 games, this was Ward’s first error of note and all sane Town supporters will forgive it with some ease.

That Knockaert found it difficult to exercise more influence was down to Town working hard as a unit, as they had done at Elland Road. Class will eventually arise, however, and a turn which took out 3 visiting players near the touchline late on was sublime.

Other than the early save and the goal, neither keeper had to work particularly hard in an increasingly cagey affair and it was difficult for either set of fans to become motivated by the moving chess laid before them.

Defensively, Town were solid – Smith had a fantastic game both with and without the ball – and in midfield, Hogg and Mooy kept control for much of the game but without being able to inspire much further forward.

Van La Parra’s runs were quite dangerous looking at times, but petered out before he could link with live wire Jack Payne or the hard working but frustrated Kachunga.

On the right, it was difficult to see what Bunn brought to the party. While hard working, his work with the ball was entirely unthreatening and neither here nor at Elland Road has he convinced as a starter – he can, however, be a different proposition coming off the bench.

A goal down, Hefele was thrown on to try to inspire a repeat of the Villa Park miracle, but the excellent Lewis Dunk easily controlled the cult hero (kudos to the several dressing gown wearing Town fans last night!).

A disappointing night then, but the run was bound to end at some point and, at least, the manner of it was slightly unfortunate rather than a capitulation. Having created a team which can defend as a unit from back to front, David Wagner will now surely turn his attention to offensive matters. Too few chances are being created, Kachunga looks too isolated and there is far too few attempts on goal.

As for Brighton, and horrendous train services apart, it really is a great away day. Friendly, knowledgable and grounded fans add to the experience and the stadium looked a picture in the late evening sunshine and dusk.

Back home next for, hopefully, a more expansive performance against the wounded QPR, and a welcome home for Alex Smithies (and the hope that he is picking a few more out!)

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