Brighton & Hove Albion secured another vital three points in the promotion race on Tuesday night, with goals from central defenders Conor Goldson and Lewis Dunk cancelling out Kyle Lafferty’s early opener.
Goldson scored his first Albion goal and his defensive partner Dunk, who is one-year older, also found the net on a night that highlighted the maturity of Albion’s youthful pairing and the solid foundations they are bringing to Chris Hughton’s side.
Club captain Gordon Greer is finding opportunities hard to come by from Albion’s bench, as Goldson and Dunk continue to impress in front of David Stockdale, who was let off the hook following his howler for Lafferty’s 16th-minute tap-in.
Tuesday’s game was the 18th game in succession that Albion’s young duo had lined up in the heart of defence, a run of games that has seen eight clean sheets and nine victories on route.
Their match-winning goals were impressive, from two Jiri Skalak deliveries, but the overall performance of Hughton’s trusted youngsters was equally as brilliant.
Faced with Birmingham’s six-foot plus striker’s Lafferty and Clayton Donaldson, Albion’s defence were bombarded with aerial balls from the off, but Dunk and Goldson dominantly dealt with everything the Blues threw their way.
Not only were they commanding in the air, but their calm approach on the ground was the platform for the majority of Albion’s ventures upfield, as Hughton’s patient philosophy was rigorously orchestrated from the back.
Dunk and Goldson, at the age of 24 and 23 respectively, are far from being finished articles, but there’s no doubt both players are performing above and beyond their age, especially considering the omission of a vastly-experienced partner, such as Greer or Uwe Hunemeier.
After arriving from Shrewsbury Town in the summer, Goldson spent the opening months of the season as Hughton’s fourth-choice centre back, however the back-to-back Shrews player of the season has firmly grabbed hold of his chance alongside Dunk and is now a mainstay in Albion’s defence.
Dunk notched his second goal of the season, powering Skalak’s corner past Tomas Kuszczak at the back post, but there’s no doubt Albion’s top goalscorer from last season will be slightly disappointed with his tally this term.
Both Dunk and Goldson scored seven goals for their respective clubs last season and with their most recent match-winning contribution, they’ll be looking to increase their goal tallies in Albion’s final six games, starting with a trip to Nottingham Forest.
Albion’s game at the City Ground is a Monday night kick-off, meaning Burnley and Middlesbrough will have the chance to pull further clear of Hughton’s team over the weekend, potentially leaving Albion four points adrift of the automatic-promotion places.
If Burnley lose to Leeds United at Turf Moor and Middlesbrough fail to win against Preston North End at home, victory for Albion on Monday evening will lift them into top spot with only five games to go.