Brighton and Hove Albion may have missed out on signing the ever-illusive target man before the transfer window slammed shut, but they managed to right one long-term wrong in winning away from home.
Gus Poyet secured four new players on Transfer Deadline Day (David Lopez, Dean Hammond, Stephen Dobbie and Andrea Orlandi) but it was a forward who very nearly left the club who stole the show during a well-contested match-up against Burnley.
Craig Mackail-Smith was a last-minute transfer target for Premier League Norwich City, but Brighton held firm and turned down a bid believed to be in the region of £3million for the Scotland international.
Less than 24 hours later, and the Albion would have been doubly glad they did, as the hitman scored two goals of the highest order to sink the Clarets. His first strike came on 18 minutes after he pounced on a known down on the edge of the penalty box to drive home well aimed effort to give Brighton the lead and their first away goal in months.
A Gordon Greer own goal levelled things up on 60 minutes but a by then rampaging Mackail-Smith would not be denied and, when a short corner routine resulted in a cross slightly behind the forward, he somehow managed a gravity defying overhead kick which dispatched the ball into the Burnley goal, much to the delight of the travelling fans, some of whom will no doubt have been among the number of Brighton supporters who believed the club should cash in on their record signing an re-invest the money elsewhere.
Even New Labour spin doctor extraordinaire and Burnley fan Alastair Campbell found time to acknowledge the quality of Mackail-Smith’s second brace in two games. He tweeted, “Hate to say it but Craig Mackail-Smith has scored two incredibly goals today.” The striker’s right foot was a weapon of mass destruction which needed no falsifying. It was there for all to see.
Greer atoned for his early own goal with a third two minutes from time after an inviting corner kick from Orlandi. Hammond, Dobbie and Lopez were unavailable while the Stripes once again had to make do without the injured Vicente.
Twitter went mad on Friday night with Albion fans finger crossing in the hope of a return to The Amex of Bobby Zamora. That was never likely and the reaction to Hammond’s signing was far from universally positive, with many fans still angry about how the midfielder reacted to the Withdean South Stand after netting for Southampton.
The Hastings lad may have to knuckle down and work hard to win over a section of the Seagulls support but the fact remains, Brighton had not found an effective replacement for the centre midfielder until Friday, when they re-signed the same player.
And, whether or not a new target man is added through the loan market, the Brighton squad is in better health now than at the start of the summer. Just how far it can go remains to be seen. It will certainly be exciting finding out.
Player rating: Kuszczak 8, Bruno 7, Bridge 7, Greer 7, El Abd 7, Bridcutt 7, Crofts 7, Dicker 7, Barnes 7, Mackail-Smith 9, Lua Lua 7. Subs: Buckley 7, Orlandi 7.