Report: United Women 1 Brighton 0
Leah Galton scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United Women made it five games unbeaten to remain firmly in the hunt for a top-three WSL finish.
In what turned out to be a cagey affair at Leigh Sports Village, the Reds battled hard during the first 45 minutes but couldn't score. Ella Toone enjoyed the game's best chance early on, but, on a landmark 100th appearance, was denied by Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Katie Startup.
Marc Skinner's side were thus made to wait during the encounter but eventually broke the deadline after 68 minutes. Leah Galton latched onto a clever pass from Toone and duly finished past Startup.
Victory keeps United in third place in the Women's Super League. The Reds are three points ahead of rivals City, who have one game-in-hand and a slightly inferior goal difference. Three games now remain for Marc Skinner's side as they seek UEFA Champions League qualification.
The Reds' first chance of the game came through midfielder Jackie Groenen after just five minutes, as her long-range effort from 25 yards out sailed over the crossbar.
Ella Toone was put through one-on-one soon after but was denied well as Brighton goalkeeper Katie Startup came quick off her line to close down the United midfielder.
Alessia Russo posed an ever-threatening presence upfront in the early stages. Her continued pressing of the Seagulls' backline resulted in the opening of multiple potential avenues.
Toone again found space just after the half-hour mark when Hayley Ladd’s pin-point ball found the Reds no.7. Toone generated enough power on her chipped effort but it was gathered by Startup.
Martha Thomas took aim from the edge of the area as the half-time break drew ever closer, with her strike sailing high over the bar. Toone again tried her luck too as the Reds' frustrations began to show. Her effort unfortunately came to no avail.
A late penalty appeal at the end of the first 45 minutes rounded off the action. Referee Abigail Byrne waved away Thomas’s claims that she had been fouled on the edge of the area.
Soon after the restart, Ona Batlle found space down the right to cross for Russo, whose header was easily saved by Seagulls 'keeper Startup.
With the game following a similar pattern as the hour mark rolled by, Skinner’s side again applied pressure in their attempt to find the opening goal. Toone cleverly linked up play with Russo before Startup was quick to react to prevent any further danger.
But with twenty minutes remaining, Brighton’s resistance was finally broken. An excellent pass from Toone found Leah Galton unmarked down the left flank and she rolled her effort into the back of the net.
Substitute Kirsty Hanson soon danced into the area, following her introduction just moments before. The United no.18 was desperate to find a killer blow, but the visitors eventually foiled her attempts on goal.
As Hope Powell's side bid to find an equaliser, Hayley Ladd proved a defensive nuisance to thwart any potential late danger from the Seagulls.
Thomas came close to doubling the Reds' advantage ten minutes later. Her effort unfortunately trickled just wide of the mark. Another chance would soon follow, on this occasion Thomas being denied by the busy Startup following a clever right-wing cross from Toone.
Skinner's side probed late on and weathered a very late Brighton storm to secure the three points and maintain our third-place position in the WSL. The Reds' next fixture is not until 24 April when we face Aston Villa away from home.
United: Earps; Batlle, Ladd, Thorisdottir, Blundell; Zelem (c), Groenen (Boe Risa, 68); Thomas, Toone, Galton (Moore, 81); Russo (Hanson, 68).
Subs not used: Baggaley, Harris, Jones, Fuso.
Goal: Galton (68).
Brighton: Startup; William, Kerkdijk (Brazil, 86), Kullberg (Connolly, 46); Le Tissier, Koivisto, Whelan (Symonds, 74), Zigiotti, Gibbons; Lee (Green, 74), Simpkins (Bance, 53).
Subs not used: Walsh, Connolly, Kaagman, Green, Carter.
Booked: Koivisto (32).