QPR 1, Brighton 2: Murray's mint and Pocognoli's perfect in Albion's leapfrog game at summit

Glenn Murray proved mint again for Brighton & Hove Albion as his 21st goal of the season continued their game of leapfrog at the Championship summit.

Friday, 7th April 2017, 10:44 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:41 am
Glenn Murray wheels away after giving Brighton & Hove Albion the lead with his 21st goal of the season. Picture by Phil Westlake

Despite having two goals correctly chalked off in the first half for offside, including one himself, Murray popped up once again to net a crucial goal in the Seagulls' promotion push just before the hour-mark.

After a dull first half, Seb Pocognoli, on his return to the side, curled in a cracker of a free kick into the top corner with his first goal in England to double Albion's lead.

Both sent the 3,219 travelling fans into raptures as they took over at the top of the table with a two-point lead again.

Glenn Murray drives for goal ahead of putting Albion in front against Queens Park Rangers. Picture by Phil Westlake

It was made nervy for them, however, as Matt Smith headed home a corner with 16 minutes remaining. And nervy it was as Rangers threw everything forwards and had a number of near misses.

Second-placed Newcastle face a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in the late kick-off on Saturday, while Huddersfield, who sit third and are 12 points behind Albion, are away to Nottingham Forest.

Rangers made a staggering seven changes from the team that lost 1-0 at Aston Villa on Tuesday night including handing Ravel Morrison his first start since returning to the club.The hosts also named former Albion defenders Grant Hall and Joel Lynch in their starting XI.

Albion made two changes as Steve Sidwell came in for Beram Kayal and Pocognoli returned to the team in place of Gaten Bong. Both were rested alongside Liam Rosenior, with no injuries reported.

Vegard Forren was also named on the bench for the first time having joined the club as a free agent in March.

It could have been a third change for Albion as Lewis Dunk, who came off through illness against Birmingham on Tuesday night, pulled out of the warm-up and went off with Albion medical staff.

But although Fikayo Tomori took part in the rest of the warm-up, Dunk appeared with the teams ahead of kick-off.

In a cagey start, it took until the 12th minute before we saw the first shot, but Ryan Manning did not get enough on his attempt curled effort and Stockdale collected easily.

Albion began to ease into gear and Anthony Knockaert picked up the ball on the left and cut inside to Dale Stephens. The central midfielder fed Bruno on the wing and his cross bounced dangerously in the six-yard box, just ahead of Glenn Murray.

In the 26th minute, Solly March drilled in a low effort after the ball fell to him from a corner, but it failed to trouble Alex Smithies. Soon after, Tomer Hemed miscued an effort in the 18-yard box.

QPR were presented a great chance on the half-hour mark as a Sidwell pass across the halfway line was cut out by Conor Washington and the striker drove forwards to the edge of the box and lashed just over the bar.

Albion had a goal disallowed on 33 minutes as Knockaert's cross was turned home by Murray, but the celebrations are quickly cut short by the assistant's flag with the striker narrowly offside.

Moments later, at the other end Stockdale was down well to save Manning's curled shot, while James Perch's half-volley after a free kick was crucially blocked away by Bruno.

Two minutes before the break, again, Albion had an effort correctly chalked off for offside as Hemed slid home Pocognoli's driven flat cross.

Perch then somehow escaped without a yellow card just before the break as his studs up tackle on Pocognoli warranted just a talking to in the opinion of referee Simon Hooper.

Dunk despite battling through the first period, didn't make the second half as was replaced by Tomori.

At the start of the second half, Knockaert was crowded out after a long ball forwards and a March effort was deflected behind. On 55 minutes, Stockdale grasped a dangerous header at the back post from Matt Smith as he rose highest.

The deadlock was broken on 58 minutes as Murray raced through onto a Hemed ball, bore down into the box when one-on-one with Smithies and coolly finished.

Just eight minutes later it was 2-0 as Pocognoli curled home a fantastic free kick from the corner of the penalty area into the top corner.

Back at the other, Smith forced a parry from Stockdale and the ball was cleared away for a corner, but from the resulting set-piece the striker's backwards header found the top corner to set up a nervy closing stages.

Rangers piled on the pressure and substitute Yeni Ngbakoto went close, Washington lashed over after a scramble and Stockdale denied replacement Idrissa Sylla with a block on the line.

Rangers players and supporters were unhappy with what they felt were time-wasting tactics from Albion, who ran down the clock, but there were another five added minutes on which the visitors held out.

Brighton: Stockdale, Bruno, Hunemeier, Dunk, Pocognolia, Knockaert (Norwood 83), Sidwell, Stephens, March, Hemed (Murphy 78), Murray. Unused subs: Skalak, Murphy, Forren, Tomori, Akpom, Maenpaa.

QPR: Smthies, Onuonha, Lynch (Sylla 77), Hall, Perch, Luongo, Manning, Robinson (Ngbakoto, 65), Morrison (Freeman 65), Smith, Washington. Unused subs: Bidwell, Goss, Wszolek, Ingram.

Attendance: 16,503 (3,219 away).

Referee: Simon Hooper.