Brighton & Hove Albion avoided a potential banana skin in defeating Grimsby Town at the Amex Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The 5-0 victory could have conceivably been far wider, but it is a testament to the Premier League side’s focus that they never even came close to struggling with their League Two opponents.
The first half had the look of the expected rout, if not the scoreline. Brighton did get their goal through Denis Undav six minutes in. A Moises Caicedo shot from outside of the box saw Max Crocombe spring into action. His stop trickled into Undav’s path, who duly obliged with the finish.
But beyond that early strike, the Seagulls struggled to extend their lead. Evan Ferguson had tested Crocombe before the opener and Undav would do so again after on two occasions. A pair of headers were both snuffed out by the keeper.
The in-form Kaoru Mitoma could have had a few goals if he were in more ruthless fettle. The most egregious was a near-open goal from a Pascal Gross which the Japan international put wide. There was another chance from distance for Caicedo who couldn’t hit the target this time. Crocombe was called upon again when Kieran Green deflected a Solly March cross towards his own goal.
The second half saw Brighton go agonisingly close again. A March cross was deflected onto the post and the rebound once again fell to Undav. He sent it high and handsome when he really should have done better.
It wasn’t long before Roberto De Zerbi’s men got their deserved second though. Teenager Evan Ferguson once again showed his obvious class. Alexis Mac Allister’s innovative flicked ball was brought down with poise by the 18-year-old, while the low finish was instinctive. It had been a long time coming, but Brighton’s second goal of this FA Cup tie was worth the wait.
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Mitoma side-footed wide moments later, another uncharacteristic moment of profligacy from the attacker. But Ferguson soon had the Amex rocking with his second goal of the afternoon. Or at least he did momentarily, before a correctly-administered offside flag ruled it out.
The youngster did manage to double up though, ghosting in to the Grimsby box and slamming one past Crocombe. The Grimsby fans had allegedly been throwing missiles onto the field for much of the second half, but it was a shot of military precision that silenced them. Game over.
The only thing left to do was to get Mr Brighton himself, Solly March, on the scoresheet. The 267-game club veteran notched his 22nd goal at the club with a glancing header in the final ten minutes to rapturous applause.
Another figure who felt like he needed a goal was Mitoma. He had endured a torrid time in front of goal during the game, missing some straightforward chances. But a deflected strike from the left-edge of the box outfoxed Crocombe and nestled in the net.
Brighton will now go into the hat for the last four of this famous old competition. It is a position they have occupied before, most recently in 2019. Now De Zerbi’s men will be heading under the arch to go one better, as they try to reach a first FA Cup final since 1983.
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