Brighton boss Hughton: 'I will never accuse my players of not working hard'

Chris Hughton revealed that he would 'never accuse his players of not working hard' despite a lacklustre first-half showing from Brighton & Hove Albion in their 1-1 home draw with Newcastle United on Saturday evening.

Sunday, 28th April 2019, 1:56 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th April 2019, 2:18 pm
Brighton & Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton. Picture courtesy of Getty Images.

The Seagulls found themselves a goal down at the break, thanks to an Ayoze Perez goal, and the statistics made for grim viewing.

Albion had only managed to see 38 per cent of the ball and had failed to register a shot on goal after a dire first 45 minutes.

Brighton's display was met with a chorus of boos from the Albion faithful and the Seagulls looked to be sleep-walking to defeat.

But Brighton's much improved second-half display saw Pascal Gross head home an equaliser to earn Hughton's side a valuable point in their fight against relegation.

The Albion boss said: "I will never accuse my players of not working hard. There's going to be days where we're not at it.

"There were a few harsh words (at half-time), which is normal after a first-half performance like that but credit to the players.

"Sometimes there can be a turn in the game and I think there was a period in the second-half where the momentum was very much with us. That tends to be a nice feeling. "

Before kick-off, Albion had been buoyed by the news earlier in the day that third-from-bottom Cardiff City had been beaten 1-0 at already-relegated Fulham.

Despite everything seeming to fall into place, the Seagulls were well and truly overwhelmed by Newcastle and struggled to adapt to their new 4-4-2 formation.

To combat Brighton's lack of goals, Hughton partnered topscorer Glenn Murray up-front with Florin Andone. But it turned out to be ineffective as the Magpies looked in cruise control after the first-half.

When asked if Albion had been affected by Cardiff's result, Hughton said: "I honestly don't think the result had anything to do with it. If anything you should have a team of players go out filled with confidence.

"We just didn't work the system. We afforded them far too much room and I don't think we worked hard enough in that first-half period.

"We've found it difficult to score goals so we played two up-front. We've picked the worst period of the season to have our worst period of football.

"You need individuals to make a difference. You need a lucky goal and somebody needs to score from a header then generally doesn't and that can make a difference."

Gross' equaliser was his first goal for the club since his consolation strike in a 2-1 loss at Manchester United all the way back on January 19.

The German has recently returned from a length-injury lay-off which has seen him struggle to replicate last season's sterling goals tally.

The Seagulls midfielder has only been able to net three league goals in 2018/19 in comparison to seven in 2017/18, and this is a trend that runs throughout the squad.

Albion's second topscorer, behind Murray with 11, is Shane Duffy with five and not a single Brighton midfielder or forward, bar Murray, has managed to hit more than three league goals this season.

Hughton admitted that certain players 'hadn't been at their best' and conceded that a vast injury-list has forced Albion to change their methods of goalscoring.

He added: "Pascal hasn't been at his best. This is a player that had great momentum last season, played right through the season, but has been in-and-out for a good time with injury.

"If I'm looking at last season then, if you look at where we got our goals and assists from, it's people like Glenn, (Jose) Izquierdo, who got five goals for us last season, and Pascal.

"Solly March is a wonderful player and he's played a lot of games for us but I think he's got one goal for us this season.

"Anthony (Knockaert) has got a couple of goals, we've missed Izquierdo's goals that we had last year, so we've got to try and get them from somewhere.

"This season we've had to substitute that with set-plays, where we've been good, but we've found it difficult to find that formula to get us goal.

"The only way you can score is by playing better, but also players stepping up to the mark. Pascal is one you know that can be in there and around it."