Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
Brighton and Hove Albion 3
Exeter City 0.
Tuesday 2 November 2010
Ref: Keith Hill
Att: 7212 with 197 City fans.
BBC match report –
By Paul Fletcher
BBC Sport at the Withdean Stadium
Brighton maintained their eight-point lead at the top of League One with a comfortable victory over illness-hit Exeter.
Grecians boss Paul Tidsdale made six changes from the side that lost 4-2 at home to Brentford on Saturday but his team were no match for a Seagulls outfit that won their fourth straight league fixture without conceding.
Adam El-Abd headed the Seagulls in front in the opening minutes before Ashley Barnes struck from the penalty spot after the half-hour mark.
Barnes, who scored twice at Peterborough on Saturday, notched another double when he slotted home after the break as Albion completed a routine win in which they ground down their opponents with their passing and movement.
It was the final league match of Brighton manager Gus Poyet's first year in charge and his team played some delightful football, always trying to pass their way through their opponent's defensive structure.
Yet for all Albion's patient but high-tempo football it was El-Abd's old fashioned header from Elliott Bennett's corner that put the home team in front early on, with Exeter guilty of failing to pick up the goalscorer as he surged into the six-yard box.
The recalled Kazenga LuaLua almost doubled the lead with a low strike that deflected wide after a mazy run, while Bennett went close with a free-kick as Poyet's side tightened their grip on the contest.
The killer second came after Troy Archibald-Henville rashly brought down Glenn Murray just inside the Exeter area despite the Brighton striker overrunning the ball with a heavy touch.
Barnes, who turned 21 on Saturday, struck his sixth of the season with a spot kick into the top corner.
The Grecians did enjoy a spell of pressure before the break but James Norwood fired well wide with his team's only clear opening of the half.
It was scant encouragement for the 197 away fans and Brighton were soon on top again, with a Gary Dicker strike blocked and LuaLua failing to finish a sweeping move with a low strike that flashed across goal.
An increasingly pedestrian and one-sided encounter was enlivened when Exeter defender Rob Edwards clashed with Barnes in an off-the-ball incident that left the Brighton player holding his face on the ground but was unseen by the officials.
LuaLua was increasingly influential on the left side, giving Exeter full-back Steve Tully a torrid evening, but Barnes could not keep the wide man's shot on target.
Murray later shot wide but Barnes eventually found the target, converting Bennett's cross with a precise right-foot finish.
Brighton substitute Agustin Battipiedi had one shot blocked while another went wide and LuaLua also missed the target as Brighton went close to a fourth.
Brighton boss Gus Poyet told BBC Sussex:
"We didn't know how Exeter would come and play. They started with one system then changed. Everything is easier when you score in the first seven or eight minutes. It was complicated but we beat them convincingly.
"I didn't think we started brilliantly today, especially up front. After the penalty Ashley Barnes was outstanding - the way he held the ball up and created chances for himself.
"He should have had a hat-trick. When you're playing in a team like this it makes you confident."
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale told BBC Radio Devon:
"We were on the poor side of average against a very good team, and to go a goal down early on with a set-piece made things very difficult.
"It was a sorry night for us, we weren't at all at our best and it was disappointing.
"We have to make the best of it and be glad that we're in League One and at times we've been very good, but tonight, unfortunately, we were poor.