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Murray has target in sight
One more goal could take Glenn Murray one giant step closer to securing his future with Albion.
Reading between the lines, it might just confirm the lucrative deal the Seagulls leading marksman is looking for if he reaches 20 in a season for the first time in his career.
Murray’s three-and-a-half year deal is up in June and everybody is wondering whether he will still be here next season in the Championship at The Amex.
Manager Gus Poyet said: “The negotiations are still going on. It’s not easy, he is a striker. The boy wants some money!
“He produced a great goal from nothing, which is why the strikers are there, and now he is very close to the 20 which is what we asked of him at the start of the season. It’s still 19, let’s see if he scores 20. The sooner the better.”
The sooner the better that is both for Murray’s sake and for Albion’s. The quicker they complete the task of clinching promotion and the title then the more scope Poyet will have to give flagging regulars like Murray a break and fringe players an opportunity.
Murray would have been rested to the bench alongside Elliott Bennett if Bristol Rovers had not resisted their loan-to-buy bid for Will Hoskins prior to last Thursday’s deadline.
Poyet said: “It’s clear to see that Glenn is tired. He has been playing every single game for 90 minutes. We thought about resting him.
“We nearly got a striker and that was the idea, to give Glenn a little bit of a rest at the beginning of the game, but we couldn’t. We need to be proud of him in terms of his effort.”
Several of the squad are beginning to look a bit leggy, which is hardly surprising after seven intense matches already this month and another still to come at Dagenham and Redbridge tomorrow night.
They have won the lot of them, emulating a run last achieved in April 1956, to bring the prizes close enough to almost touch.
Albion need, at most, 12 points from the remaining nine games to be sure of going up, 16 to be crowned champions. In reality they require considerably less after scraping past a Swindon side making a nonsense of their plight at the opposite end of the table.
Gordon Greer thought his old club gave the Seagulls their toughest match since the 0-0 draw at Southampton in November.
Murray, similarly impressed, pinpointed the reasons why last season’s beaten play-off finalists now find themselves on the brink of relegation.
He said: “I think when you sell the likes of Billy Painter and Charlie Austin, that is going to have a negative effect on the squad. The captain Gordon Greer came and joined us as well and he has been massive for us. Those three players are irreplaceable at this level.
“I thought they did well until they got to the box, where they didn’t have the likes of Billy and Charlie to finish things off for them like they did last year.
“It was a hot day. I think both teams felt it and kept possession whenever they got hold of the ball. They gave us a little bit of our own medicine and did to us what we have done to teams in the past. It was quite a tight game and that goal saw us over the line.”
It is modest of Murray to describe it as that goal, rather than my goal, although he is right to recognise the part played by his team-mates in his career-equalling tally.
On this occasion though most of the work was his own. Gary Dicker and Fran Sandaza, a rare starter in the absences of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, combined to create an opening of sorts. Murray, still with it all to do, jinked away from a couple of defenders to score with an angled right-foot drive, emulating his 19-goal haul with Rochdale in 2006-07 and Rochdale and Albion the following season.
Albion also needed a touch of class for their early breakthrough. Craig Noone, starting at Bennett’s expense, provided it with a magical run in which he tricked his way past several Swindon players.
It would have been a goal of the season contender but for a foul by Andy Frampton, which earned a penalty safely converted by Dicker to end his 13-month Withdean famine.
It promised to be a comfortable afternoon in the sunshine for Poyet’s depleted leaders at that stage but Swindon had other ideas. They showed much more ambition and quality than many visitors to Withdean, although they needed a bolt from the blue to breach Albion’s mean rearguard.
David Prutton, no doubt regretting his decision in the summer to sign for the Robins rather than the Seagulls, unleashed a 30-yard shot which swerved wickedly through the flapping right arm of the wrong-footed Casper Ankergren for his first goal since September.
Dicker had the chance to restore Albion’s lead from the spot on the hour, when Murray was impeded by Kevin Amankwaah from his free-kick.
His scuffed attempt, saved by David Lucas, was not altogether a surprise considering an un-nerving delay, the Seagulls’ awful penalty record this season and the Irish midfielder’s meagre total of four goals in 90 appearances.
Hoskins takes penalties. Murray wants the job back but he would have been happy to see the Bristol Rovers marksman on board.
He said: “I don’t think it’s just me, a lot of the lads are tired. We have got games coming thick and fast but also the end is coming fast. We have just got to dig in for the last six weeks.
“With Ashley injured and Chris away I think it would have been a sensible decision. Unfortunately we didn’t get who we wanted and we have got to go with what we have got. I think we have got enough definitely.”
So do I Glenn, and enough to make a strong showing in the Championship next season as well with the summer spending planned by Poyet.
Albion (4-1-3-2): Ankergren; Calderon, Greer, Elphick, Painter; Bridcutt; Sparrow (Bennett 68), Dicker, Noone (Kishishev 78); Murray, Sandaza (Dunk 90). Subs not used: Brezovan, Navarro, Baz, Agdestein.
Goals: Dicker (12) penalty, Murray (64).
Yellow cards: None.
Swindon (4-3-1-2): Lucas; Amankwaah, Frampton, Cuthbert, Sheehan; Caddis, Douglas, Prutton; Ritchie (N,Diaye 90); Grella (Benyon 84), Andrew. Subs not used: Rose, McGovern, Timlin, Smith, Jean-Francois.
Goals: Prutton (23).
Yellow cards: Prutton (60) dissent, Sheehan (90) foul.