Morsy’s Wigan slip further towards relegation as Brighton stride towards promotion
Sam Morsy started as a substitute for Wigan as Brighton came away 2-1 victors in a crucial match for both sides.
Brighton & Hove Albion were seeking to all but secure their promotion to the Premier League, returning for the first time since 1983 when it was called Football League 1. The Seagulls knew that bettering the result of rivals Huddersfield would guarantee a return to the top division, while any other result would force them to put any celebrations on hold. However, with a 31 goal difference advantage on their rivals, confidence was riding high.
Wigan Athletic stood in their way, searching for victory for very different reasons. The Latics began the match five points from safety. Despite their precarious position in the table, they had won their previous two fixtures, scoring three in each. Egyptian Sam Morsy began this crucial fixture on the bench for Wigan.
Brighton, unsurprisingly, started better than the visitors, passing the ball with confidence and ensuring Wigan remained starved of any meaningful possession. They threatened early, Anthony Knockaert’s crosses keeping the Wigan defence on their toes. Albion went close when Latics goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard fumbled a particularly threatening cross, allowing Lewis Dunk the opportunity to twice shoot at goal, with both attempts being blocked.
Brighton continued their dominance, but as the first half wore on became guilty of giving the ball away cheaply in good positions, allowing Wigan brief moments of respite. On 39 minutes however, Brighton broke the deadlock through leading goal scorer Glenn Murray. The experienced striker scored a low shot from the edge of the area into the bottom right hand corner.
Brighton’s confidence was sharply boosted by this important goal. Murray very nearly immediately doubled the league leaders’ lead with a strong header, but it was correctly ruled out as the corner from which the chance came went out of play.
The second-half began the same way the first ended, the hosts pressing hard in search of a goal that would effectively seal their victory. They went close with yet another mistake from Wigan goalkeeper Haugaard drawing another shot blocked on the line by his defenders. The keeper made up for his mistake with a fantastic save from Knockaert’s free-kick.
Wigan made two changes in their effort to find a crucial equaliser and boost their survival hopes, with Nick Powell and Ryan Colclough coming on for Ryan Tunnicliffe and Gabriel Obertan.
The substitutions did not have the desired effect, and Albion doubled their lead on 65 minutes. The impressive Knockaert played a low cross back into the centre of the opposition box and Solly March drove the ball through the legs of Haugaard.
Chris Hughton made two substitutions of his own, as goal scorer March and Beram Kayal were replaced by Jamie Murphy and Oliver Norwood. Wigan made their final change as Sam Morsy came on in place of Shaun MacDonald, aiming to salvage some for their own season.
Knockaert almost topped off his brilliant performance with a goal of his own, however his well placed shot was ruled out for offside. Chuba Akpom replaced Tomer Hemed for Albion, with Hughton looking to secure the win.
The Latics managed to surprise their dominant hosts, substitute Nick Powell planting a header past goalkeeper Stockdale on 85 minutes. It was Powell’s fifth goal in three substitute appearances, and Wigan’s first attempt at goal in the match.
The goal shook Albion, and Wigan grew in confidence with the unlikely lifeline presented to them. The visitors pressed hard, pressuring the home goal but were unable to create any chances as the Brighton defence stood tall and repelled all advances.
The result leaves Brighton 15 points clear of 3rd placed Huddersfield, the latter with 5 games remaining. However, due to Brighton’s vastly superior goal difference, promotion is essentially guaranteed. They will have the opportunity to mathematically secure promotion with their next match on Friday, April 21 away to Norwich City.
Wigan remain five points from safety, albeit with only three games remaining, thus making their survival chances now extremely slim. They will have the chance to push for survival on Saturday, April 22 at home to Cardiff City.
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