Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 Albion
2/2/13 - 3.00pm
Albion saw their promising run of league form in 2013 come to an abrupt end on a disastrous afternoon at Hillsborough, as the hosts ran out 3-1 winners.
An early goal for home debutant Leroy Lita saw the Seagulls fall behind in the opening stages, before an Ashley Barnes red card followed by a swift Owls second made the task a nigh-on impossible one. Andrea Orlandi offered a glimmer of hope but it was all over when Michail Antonio headed home a third.
With just 5 minutes of the clock, Lita notched his second in as many games with the first real opening of the game - Michail Antonio's pin-point cross dropping just beyond the head of Matt Upson for the Swansea loanee to loop a header into the top corner past Tomasz Kuszczak.
Despite the early setback, the Seagulls gained a foothold in the game and started to create chances of their own - Leonardo Ulloa forcing a smart stop from Chris Kirkland with a close range effort. The Argentine then fired over after controlling a cross from Dean Hammond - but the linesman flag would've seen it ruled out anyway.
A pivotal moment arrived on 30 minutes, as Barnes saw a straight red. The in-form striker lunged in high and late on Kieran Lee, leaving referee Simon Hooper with little choice but to send him on his way. Virtually seconds later, the Albion's misery was compounded as Wednesday doubled their lead.
From the resultant free-kick, Danny Pugh bent in an in-swinging cross that somehow managed evade a packed six yard box to trickle into the far corner of Kuszczak's net. Certainly a first half to forget for the Seagulls heading into the break.
They responded well after the interval - Ulloa again looking the most likely scorer for the visitors as he saw a right-footed effort well blocked by Anthony Gardner. However, the visitors nearly found themselves 3-0 down when Antonio and Lita again linked up with the latter prodding just wide.
Albion were starting to feel their numerical disadvantage as Dave Jones' men contained the visitors attacks with little trouble. That was, until Craig Mackail-Smith, on as a sub, broke through the Owls' back-line before squaring the ball from a wide right position. The ball eventually fell to Orlandi who smashed home an unstoppable drive from the edge of the area.
However, just as it looked like Albion had turned it into a real contest, Wednesday restored their 2-goal advantage. Kuszczak failed to claim an in-swinging corner, and Antonio found himself ideally positioned to head the ball home from all of 2-yards.
A reckless challenge from Pugh on Inigo Calderon only saw a yellow card, which sparked something of a fracas between the two benches - as first team coach Charlie Oatway and Dave Jones were both sent to the stands. After a couple more half-chances apiece, the referee put the visitors out of their misery as the full-time whistle went.
Still yet to record victory at Wednesday's historic ground, the Seagulls dropped one place to 8th, but remain 5 points off the play-off spots.