Hughton aiming for 'magic figure' after failing to win on the road again
Photo: Getty Images - John Patrick Fletcher

Hughton aiming for 'magic figure' after failing to win on the road again

Brighton surrendered a two goal lead against West Ham on Wednesday night. 

Matt Dawson

Chris Hughton was left to reflect on another disappointing away result for Brighton on Wednesday. 

The Seagulls looked as though they were heading towards a rare win on the road, going two goals up through Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy before a Marko Arnautovic double for West Ham meant the match finished 2-2.

All of the game's goals came during a remarkable ten minute period in the second half. 

Away form a concern

The Seagulls boast quite an incredible unwanted record at the moment, having failed to win in 22 of their last 24 Premier League matches away from the Amex. But despite this, Hughton remained pragmatic about the situation. "I'm realistic that the level of team that we are, away points are going to be more difficult than home ones," he said. 

It's the sort of response we've become used to from the cool-headed Hughton. He is eager to keep his feet firmly on the ground with the club rather exceeding expectations this season in 13th place, eight points above the relegation zone. "It's still very much a case of trying to get to the magic figure," he asserted. 

"It's just making sure we can keep as big a gap between the bottom three as possible," Hughton continued. 

Seagulls let lead slip 

Despite the end result, Brighton played quite well until just over 20 minutes remaining. Gaining a positive result against the Hammers has been a theme of recent meetings between the two. Before Wednesday's game, West Ham had lost each of their last three clashes with Hughton's men. Reflecting on why this might be the case, Hughton said: "With West Ham playing a system in the first half which gives them power and pace it either comes off or it doesn't. For an away team I thought we had very good control." 

However, Hughton's reaction to the game wasn't all full of optimism. "It's extremely disappointing because there won't be too many opportunities, especially away. I thought in the first half the performance from us was very good. The overriding feeling is of disappointment," he claimed. 

Once again the best part of Brighton's game was their ability to cause problems from set pieces. It's an area where a large number of their goals have come from this season and they scored from two more at the London Stadium on Wednesday.

West Ham failed to clear sufficiently for Stephens' opener and then somehow allowed the ball to evade everyone in claret and blue before Duffy had a tap-in at the back post. "We do set plays before every game. We did set plays before every game last season. We had a very poor record from both, we've conceded a lot from set plays - whether it's just continuation from the amount of work we've done but we're not doing any more than last season," the Seagulls manager analysed. 

Brighton not good enough in decisive moments

In response to going two goals down, West Ham brought on Michail Antonio who instantly caused problems for Bernardo down the left-hand side of Brighton's defence. The former got the better of the Brazilian on more than one occasion, including for the second goal as the winger beat him and got to the byline before pulling it back for Arnautovic.

Bernardo was soon substituted for Gaetan Bong but Hughton confirmed it was down to a physical reason, not tactical. "Bernardo's hamstring tightened up a little bit. Having missed seven games he's played a lot of games in a short period of time so I'm hoping it's just tightness or a bit of fatigue."

Assessing the goals his side conceded on the night, the 60-year-old added: "In a game where we defended really well one of the few times we didn't defend well they got their goals from," Hughton commented.  

"It's one of those things, we scored two goals from set plays and they will ask the same questions," he concluded. 

Brighton face a tricky period over the next few weeks, taking on Bournemouth in the FA Cup before playing league leaders Liverpool and a rejuvenated Manchester United. Hughton will be hoping that with matches against two of the top sides to come, his team don't slip into the relegation battle.