Football - Garcia hails Barnes after double

Brighton manager Oscar Garcia sprung to the defence of Ashley Barnes after the striker returned to form with two goals in the 3-0 home victory over Blackburn.

PA Sport
Football - Garcia hails Barnes after double

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Blackburn players show their dejection after Ashley Barnes scores the opening goal

The former Plymouth marksman took his goal tally for the Seagulls to 50 in 160 games with his side's opening goal and later their third, after young midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey had made it 2-0 shortly after the interval.

Barnes has not always had an easy ride from Albion fans and earlier this season came close to joining Championship rivals Burnley, but Garcia believes he is proving himself an invaluable member of the side.

The Spaniard said: "Ashley wanted to take responsibility by taking the penalty which put us ahead, and that shows he has a strong personality.

"Sometimes fans' opinions can be divided, but with strikers supporters can think only in terms of goals.

"I let the players decide on who takes a penalty and Ashley wanted to score for his confidence.

"He is a player who helps others to score with his movement."

Brighton's first home win since mid-September has moved them up to 10th, three points off the play-off places, but Garcia is refusing to get caught up with any thoughts of targets.

He added: "I never know what position we are; I think only of the next game and I want the players to have the same mentality.

"We have to play a lot of games and we must be focused on the next match."

Unlike his manager, Barnes is making a bold prediction that his side will go flat out for promotion after missing out in the play-offs last season.

He said: "Everyone was devastated to miss out last time and we should be where Crystal Palace are now.

"I feel 100 per cent that we have a promotion chance and, if it's not automatically, we will be trying to go up through the play-offs."

Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer admitted he could not believe his men came away with nothing after creating a host a chances at the Amex Stadium.

Defender Tommy Spurr headed against the bar and Jordan Rhodes and Dickson Etuhu should have both hit the target.

Said Bowyer: "We are very disappointed to leave without anything, but we found their keeper inspired. "He was the man of the match.

"Unfortunately, we gave three goals away and must cut out individual errors. They are very costly at this level.

"Had Jordan scored just before half time it might have been a different game."

Rovers have only won once away from home and Bowyer admits this is a "concern".

He added: "Our home form is good but we must stop coming away and giving sides a head start."

For the second successive time, Rovers have gone into an international break on the back of a defeat but Bowyer insisted: "The scoreline flattered Brighton.

"We are really, really disappointed not to get anything, especially as we created even more chances than when we won at Bournemouth."

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