Solly March has Brighton dreaming of Europe
Solly March’s timely goal boosted Brighton’s bid for Europe as they sank derby rivals Crystal Palace 1-0 in the Premier League.
March scored the winner in the 15th minute – on March 15 – to move the Seagulls level on points with sixth-placed Liverpool with a game in hand.
It also provided a double celebration for Brighton chairman Tony Bloom after his horse Energumene won the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
The problems are mounting up for Palace, though, after their winless run stretched to 11 matches.
They were forced to hand teenage goalkeeper Joe Whitworth a professional debut with regular No 1 Vicente Guaita and deputy Sam Johnstone both injured.
At 19 years and 15 days, Whitworth was the youngest goalkeeper to appear in a Premier League game since Ben Alnwick played for Sunderland in December 2005.
The former Palace ball-boy made a nervous start with an unconvincing headed clearance outside the area, but Brighton could not punish him.
Yet Jason Steele was the busier keeper in the opening stages despite Palace not managing a shot on target in their last three matches.
Wilfried Zaha at least righted that particular wrong early on when he tested Steele with an angled drive.
Steele saved with his knee after Joachim Andersen’s through-ball split the Brighton defence and sent Michael Olise through on goal, before he palmed Odsonne Edouard’s drive away.
Whitworth got his first decent touch of the ball when he held Kaoru Mitoma’s long-range effort.
But he was beaten moments later when Mitoma sent March clean through to find the net with a composed finish.
Palace could have equalised before half-time but Andersen volleyed Olise’s free-kick across goal and wide.
They could also have been down to 10 men after Cheick Doucoure, back from suspension and already on a booking, scythed down Moises Caicedo as he was about to burst through but somehow escaped another yellow.
Understandably, the Palace midfielder did not emerge for the second half with Patrick Vieira sending on Eberechi Eze in his place.
The second half was delayed after a floodlight failure momentarily plunged the stadium into darkness, and referee Peter Bankes then stopped the match, apparently because his headset was no longer working.
Once play resumed Whitworth highlighted his potential with a stunning reaction save to keep out Alexis Mac Allister’s header at a corner.
Mac Allister almost added a second with a mazy run and shot which flew just wide, but in the end Brighton had to hang on to March’s goal for nine minutes of stoppage time.
Seagulls boss Roberto De Zerbi believes the in-form winger deserves an England call-up, so March’s seventh goal of the season was a useful reminder to Gareth Southgate, who names his latest squad on Thursday.
The 28-year-old also scored in last week’s draw at Leeds, and if he gets the nod from Southgate it really would be the month of March.