Second Division: Carpenter strike sets up Brighton for final push

Swindon Town 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 1
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The Independent Football

Mark McGhee was sacked as the manager of Millwall earlier this season, but yesterday he took a step towards rejoining the fray in the First Division when his Brighton side won the first leg of this semi-final play-off at Swindon.

It took three large dollops of luck and a largely negative game plan, but Richard Carpenter's deflected goal in the final part of the game gave the Seagulls a slender advantage to take back to their home ground on Thursday evening.

Any more good fortune and McGhee can probably book his side's appearance in the Second Division play-off final on the Bank Holiday weekend. The fact that Brighton have now not conceded a goal in over nine hours of football, going back to Easter, confirms their status as favourites to reach Cardiff.

Until their goal, Brighton had shown no ambition to score and it was some feat that despite the presence of Swindon's Tommy Mooney and Sam Parkin and Albion's Leon Knight, with 63 league goals between them this season, the two sides managed just one shot on target together. Indeed, it took 32 minutes for the first shot on goal, but Swindon right-back Andy Gurney's effort was way off line.

Swindon deserved some marks for attempting to break down their guests, whose tactics were based entirely around preserving that impressive defensive record.

The home side at least threatened to score after 35 minutes, when Parkin set up Mooney and the former Watford player stooped but failed to conquer with his close-range header.

The first slice of luck that McGhee enjoyed came a minute before the break, when Sammy Igoe saw his deflected shot from 20 yards strike Ben Roberts' post.

A combination of the woodwork and Roberts then denied Swindon again after 63 minutes. A cross from the left by Grant Smith was met with a powerful volley by Mooney, but that rebounded off the angle of post and crossbar and Parkin's follow-up header was pushed over.

That was to prove a vital save as, with 18 minutes remaining, Brighton took the upper hand. The ball ran kindly for Carpenter on a rare foray forward and although his shot from 20 yards was on target it needed a deflection to beat Rhys Evans inside his near post.

McGhee realised this had been a smash-and-grab raid of the highest order. "I would have settled for a 1-0 deficit after this match and Swindon will feel hard done by," he said. "We had a game plan and it was what we expected, but we dealt with it. And it won't be helter-skelter on Thursday."

Goal: Carpenter (72) 0-1.

Swindon Town (4-4-2): Evans; Nicholas (Fallon, 85), O'Hanlon, Heywood, Gurney; Duke (Smith, 54), Hewlett, Howard, Igoe; Mooney, Parkin. Substitutes not used: Griemink (gk), Viveash, Reeves.

Brighton and Hove Albion (4-4-2): Roberts; Harding, Cullip, Butters, Virgo; Jones, Carpenter, Oatway, Reid (Hart, 67); Knight, Iwelumo. Substitutes not used: Kuipers (gk), Mayo, Piercy, Hinshelwood.

Referee: N Barry (North Lincolnshire).

Bookings: Swindon: O'Hanlon; Brighton: Knight, Harding.

Man of the Match: Butters.

Attendance: 14,034.