The defender headed home in the second-half at St Andrew's on Tuesday
It has become an under-appreciated quality, the pinpoint set-piece delivery. More and more teams try to walk the ball into the net these days, but there’s still something beautifully effective about the well-aimed ball into the box.
Brighton certainly recognise its virtues and the accurate crosses of Jiri Skalak proved the undoing of Birmingham City here, ensuring the Seagulls continue to peck away at Burnley and Middlesbrough at the top of the Championship.
First, Czech craftsman Skalak swung in the free-kick from which Connor Goldson cancelled out Kyle Lafferty’s early opener at St Andrew’s. Then, early in the second-half, he pinged in the corner from which Lewis Dunk won them three crucial points with a header.
MATCH FACTS AND CHAMPIONSHIP TABLE
Birmingham: Kuszczak, Caddis, Morrison, Spector, Grounds, Maghoma (Fabbrini 78), Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Donaldson, Toral (Cotterill 86), Lafferty (Davis 71).
Subs Not Used: Legzdins, Vaughan, Buckley, Shotton.
Goals: Lafferty 16.
Brighton: Stockdale, Saltor, Goldson, Dunk, Rosenior, Skalak, Stephens, Kayal, LuaLua (Murphy 69), Sidwell, Hemed (Wilson 78).
Subs Not Used: Maenpaa, Greer, Bong, Knockaert, Towell.
Goals: Goldson 29,Dunk 49.
Ref: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire).
Promotion races in the Championship seldom disappoint and this latest instalment of midweek madness has only raised the intrigue.
Brighton’s win was essential with Middlesbrough beating Huddersfield and Burnley held by Cardiff, the results meaning the scramble for the two automatic places very much has three challengers.
With even next season’s basement sides in the Premier League guaranteed to pocket a cool £100m thanks to the gargantuan new television deal, there has never been a more lucrative time to go up.
It was Albion who started the brighter at St Andrew’s and Skalak rifled into the side-netting after the ball ricocheted his way after a goalmouth scramble that saw Tomasz Kuszczak claw away Bruno Saltor’s header.
But just after the quarter-hour, and against the run of play, Gary Rowett’s Birmingham went in front. Jon Toral spun and smartly played the ball wide right to Jacques Maghoma.
The power on his shot seemed to take David Stockdale by surprise and his spillage fell perfectly for Lafferty to turn into an empty net.
The Northern Ireland striker, who arrived on loan on March 24 having not featured for Norwich since January, would have been thrilled to see a net rustle once again.
It really should have been two 10 minutes later but Toral stabbed his shot wide after Brighton struggled to clear their lines and that proved costly.
When Brighton won a free-kick wide on the left, Skalak whipped in an inviting ball and Goldson rose highest to plant a header with inch-perfect placement into the bottom right corner. It was a pretty good time to score his first for the Seagulls.
With Middlesbrough leading against Huddersfield, Brighton needed a positive start to the second-half and duly stormed out of the blocks.
Once again, it was a Skalak set-piece that caused Birmingham problems. His corner was bang on the money and Dunk, carelessly left unmarked six yards out, simply nodded home.
It might have been even better but for Kuszczak, facing his former club, saving superbly from Tomer Hemed’s equally acrobatic overhead kick.
There were some hairy moments before the end, with Toral blazing over when well-placed while Maghoma’s inability to react to situations frustrated the home crowd.
You have to rewind to the early eighties for the last time Brighton graced the top-flight, but we might not have much longer to wait.