Albion 4 Exeter 2

DARREN Freeman is better known for his firepower than brain power.

A couple of daft red cards, for stamping and spitting, have marred his first season with his home town club.

But Albion's flamboyant marksman is a born headline-maker. Ever since Micky Adams signed him in the summer you sensed the likeable, long-haired striker was going to be the centre of attention one way or another.

He has not disappointed us. Freeman's roller-coaster ride continued at Withdean yesterday with the first goal of the new Millennium.

A right-foot volley from the edge of the six-yard box after Charlie Oatway headed the ball back into the danger area made sure the infectiously enthusiastic Freeman will be the subject of one of those quiz teasers for years to come.

Even in his moment of triumph, our Darren showed a refreshing capacity to laugh at himself. "Somebody said to me I might get on trivial pursuits, so I will get one question right!," he joked.

Freeman's historic strike, just 100 seconds into Albion's opening match of the 21st century, was his ninth of the season.

At first glance that seems a modest strike rate, but remember he has missed seven matches as a result of those aforementioned early baths.

If the Seagulls are to mount a push for promotion in the New Year it is essential for the strikers to start scoring regularly. That is why Adams will be delighted with Lorenzo Pinamonte's first goals for the club.

The on-loan Italian's double, after Jason Rees muffed the chance to equalise for Exeter from the penalty spot, made sure of Albion's first League victory at Withdean for nearly two months.

It was also the first time two front men have scored in the same game since that opening day mauling of Mansfield, all of which suggests a three-pronged attack will have a future in Adams' long-term thinking.

He unleashed Freeman, Pinamonte and Gary Hart together at Rotherham to great effect and they teamed up effectively again yesterday.

Pinamonte doubled the lead in first half stoppage time with an unchallenged close-range header from the excellent Paul Watson's inviting centre.

His second, just beyond the hour mark, was a bit special. Pinamonte controlled Darren Carr's free-kick from deep on his chest before finding the bottom corner of the net with the sweetest of turf-skimming strikes.

Pinamonte could have doubled his tally. A 25-yard drive approaching half time was pushed for a corner at full-stretch by Exeter keeper Stuart Naylor.

He had another shot on the turn from a Carr cross tipped over by Naylor early in the second half before squandering an opportunity much simpler than those he took.

Watson and Oatway worked the opening, but Pinamonte had so much time inside the area that he tried to be too precise and hit a post.

Still, a brace plus an assist isn't bad. The big target man, borrowed from Bristol City, planted a header into Paul Rogers' path with 14 minutes left and the skipper maintained his goalscoring knack with a right-foot volley which went in off both posts.

Albion didn't play as well as the scoreline perhaps suggests.

Adams will be annoyed Mark Walton did not have a clean sheet to celebrat, especially after that penalty let-off.

Carr's 19th minute foul on Kofi Nyamah gifted Rees the chance to equalise. The little midfielder, his head swathed in a blood-stained bandage following a challenge by Carr which earned the central defender the only booking, sent Walton the wrong way from the spot but missed the target.

Exeter, now beaten in nine of their last 11 League outings, eventually found the net twice in the last 20 minutes to narrow three-goal deficits.

Gary Alexander rifled Steve Flack's knockdown into the roof of the net from a narrow angle, then Flack was left with a simple task when Danny Cullip failed to cut out Nyamah's low cross.

Assistant manager Alan Cork, deputising for the flu-hit Adams, admitted: "It wasn't our best performance. We sat back a little after the early goal, but that might be the start of something for us now.

"We needed a little bit of luck. We have played much better than that and lost, but that's seven points from three games.

"We need to win three or four on the trot, and it's Rochdale now and we owe them one after they beat us 4-3."

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