Newcastle United 2 Brighton and Hove Albion 1
- Martin Atkinson
Eddie Howe’s resurgent Newcastle United made it eight Premier League games unbeaten – and earned their fifth win in six games – with a 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
And Fraser then set up the second a couple of minutes later, swinging in a free kick for Fabian Schär the glance home.
Lewis Dunk’s close-range header halved Howe’s side’s advantage after the break, and the Magpies had to weather something of a storm as the visitors controlled much of the play in the second half.
But they held on to claim the points, extending their superb recent run and lifting themselves to within five points of a place in the top half of the table.
An open start to the contest saw the hosts threaten first through Fraser’s volley, which was comfortably held by Robert Sanchez after Joe Willock had picked him out in the middle. It was actually Brighton who had the better chance with the score at 0-0, with Shane Duffy nodding a fine inswinging corner from Pascal Gross wide of the target.
Gross’ deliveries from set pieces were posing a few questions for Howe’s men but they dealt with them fairly well, and took their opportunities when they came. Their first of the afternoon owed a lot to frontman Chris Wood, who turned his man in his own half and played a well-weighted through ball for Murphy to chase. The winger – preferred to the fit-again Allan Saint-Maximin – ran clear but when his delicate chip came back off the upright, it fell fortuitously for Fraser, who did well to steer the ball home past Duffy on the goalline.
It only took another minute for the second to arrive, and again Fraser was involved. It was the Scotland international’s tempting free kick from the right flank which created the goal, with the Seagulls’ backline – who appeared to adopt a zonal marking approach – flummoxed by Schär’s movement. The United centre back, integral to his side’s recent revival, got a firm connection on his header and beat Sanchez down low to his left.
Former Brighton defender Dan Burn, in another faultless showing, blocked a Gross shot after Jakob Moder had skipped past Jonjo Shelvey and crossed, while Martin Dúbravka was only called into action once before the break, racing off his line to deny Danny Welbeck after Tariq Lamptey played him in. In fact, it was Newcastle who finished the half on the front foot, with Murphy seeing a shot saved when he arguably should have passed to the unmarked Fraser, before Willock pulled one wide of the target.
After the restart, Brighton came out with intent, controlling possession in the second half’s early exchanges. With 54 minutes gone, they earned themselves a lifeline. It came courtesy of another Gross delivery, this time from a corner, which found Dunk in the six yard box. The one-time England defender beat Dúbravka to the ball and headed home to cut the deficit in half.
The balance began to swing in the visitors’ favour, with Graham Potter introducing forward Neal Maupay and wideman Solly March from the bench, while Newcastle attempted to re-establish their dominance by bringing on Saint-Maximin in place of Murphy. The Frenchman’s speed on the counter gave his team another dimension to their play as they looked to push Potter’s charges back, but it wasn’t an easy task. Dunk saw another header, this time from further out, clawed away by Dúbravka as Brighton sought a leveller.
Ten minutes from time, Dúbravka got down well to deny Leandro Trossard, who fired goalwards from March’s cutback, but time eventually ran out for the Seagulls. Howe’s men held firm despite a nervy final few minutes to record a vital win, and lengthen the gap between themselves and the bottom three to seven points.