Chris Hughton hailed his Brighton team for finally securing their first clean sheet of the season in their 1-0 victory over West Ham.
Glenn Murray’s 99th goal for the club gave Brighton the lead at half-time, but it was their organised and resilient defending — on the same day centre-backs Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy signed new five-year contracts — that gave Hughton the most satisfaction as they climbed to 12th in the Premier League.
Heading into the international break, Hughton’s team have a total of eight points from eight fixtures in which Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham have been among their opposition, and the Brighton manager said: “The clean sheet’s really important for us.
“We spoke a lot about the start of the season we’ve had — we’ve had to play four of the big teams – but it’s no good speaking that way if you’re not able to capitalise on some of the games that are against very, very good opposition, but not top-six opposition. That showed.
“We were up against a really good West Ham side and you can see them scoring a lot of goals this season. We did the defensive things well and had to ride our luck a bit but the clean sheet was very pleasing.
“(Duffy and Dunk) deserve (their contracts) for what they’ve given this football club and will continue to give.”
Asked if 35-year-old Murray should be in contention for an England call-up, Hughton said: “All I can speak about is what Glenn gives us. For somebody at this stage of the season to have scored five goals in the Premier League for this club is a big achievement.
“Gareth’s done a wonderful job with the England team and he’ll make any decisions on the way that he wants to go.
“Glenn has always had the knack of being in the right place at the right time — he’s a player who has looked after himself really well and that enables him not only to get the goals but to have an impact on the overall game.”
The defeat was 15th-placed West Ham’s fifth from eight games, and ends the encouraging run that included last week’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United and leaves them at risk at falling to 17th by the weekend’s conclusion.
They were also perhaps fortunate that Jurgen Locadia’s late finish was ruled offside, but their manager Manuel Pellegrini said: “We made important mistakes in their goal, but we had chances.
“Maybe in the first 45 minutes they played with more intensity in the way they recovered the ball. But the last 45 minutes we had the pace, we had the football; they didn’t have one chance.
“We must continue working the same way because the way we played the last 45 minutes was encouraging.
“I’m more frustrated that we finished the game but lost 1-0 after creating three very clear chances, at least, to score. That’s why I cannot be happy.”