Home Start Could Be Key For Albion’s Survival Hopes

Starting their inaugural campaign with a home fixture would be great news for Chris Hughton’s Premier League new boys. Fans of many clubs will be highly anticipating the 9am release of the 2017/18 Premier League Fixtures tomorrow.

 

Ideally for Brighton – a home fixture to mark the first ever Premier League game in the Seagulls’ 116 year history would be fantastic. Not only will it be great motivation for the players standing in front of a packed AMEX, it could be a great foundation for a good early run of form for the Seagulls.

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Bruno will be the first ever Brighton player to captain the Seagulls in the Premier League.

Many people are hoping for a fixture against a big side like Manchester United. This would be amazing, but then again, it would almost certainly result in a loss. Personally, I would prefer a fixture at home to the likes of Swansea, Watford or Bournemouth.

Brighton were humbled 4-0 at the hands of Arsenal the last time they got promoted to the top flight back in 1979.

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The Brighton side that played in their first season in the first division in the 1979/80 season. Credit: Seagulls TV

A win against a side who are also likely to be battling against relegation would be monumental for the campaign.

Whoever Brighton are pitted up against, lets remember the hard work that has got us to the Premier League. Get behind the team win, lose or draw.

By George Carden

20 Years Ago, 90 League Positions Separated Newcastle and Brighton

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Hereford vs Brighton 1997 – Credit: http://www.wearebrighton.com

20 years ago, Brighton were languishing in the depths of the fourth tier of English Football. A famous match against Hereford United and subsequent equaliser from Robbie Reinelt ensured Brighton and Hove Albion’s safety. Meanwhile at the opposite end of the footballing pyramid, a Newcastle side led by Kevin Keegan, were gunning for the First Division title. They were pushed aside, 7 points behind a famous Manchester United side. 20 years ago, 90 league positions separated Brighton and Newcastle. Now it is just one.

It is amazing how much times have changed in 20 years. A club of Newcastle’s size shouldn’t be anywhere near the Championship. Brighton, who have spent a measly 4 years of their 116 year history in the top flight deserve this chance.

What do Brighton need to get promoted today?

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If Brighton beat Wigan today, Huddersfield have to find victory against Derby. Brighton can also draw but that would require Huddersfield to lose to Derby. A draw would leave Hughton’s side on 90 points with a +36 goal difference. If Huddersfield lose, the maximum they can acquire is 89 points with +5 goal difference.

The magic number for Brighton is 93 points (4 more points) which is a win and a draw. That will guarantee promotion to the Premier League even if Huddersfield were to win their last five games (leaving them on 92 points).

After that, it is between Brighton and Newcastle to battle it out for the title. However, both sets of supporters will find relief in having guaranteed promotion sealed first.

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It is surreal that 20 years of fighting, to save the club from relegation to the fifth tier of English football, to fight for planning permission for the AMEX, to comeback from back-to-back play off disappointments year after year, it has all boiled down to this day. This is the best time to be a Brighton fan. Let’s enjoy it.

Article by George Carden
Contact:
georgecarden99@gmail.com
Twitter: @George_Carden

Israel Ban a Chance for Hemed to Focus on Club Over Country

Tomer Hemed has been banned by coach, Elisha Levi, after publicly criticising him for not starting the striker in Israel’s 4-1 defeat to Spain. Hemed will miss fixtures against Moldova and Albania in June.

Whilst this disciplinary action may be frustrating for Hemed – it is a blessing for Brighton and Hove Albion. The Haifa born talisman has scored 7 goals in 15 starts for Brighton this season, and despite 14 frustrating appearances off the bench, has proven himself a valuable asset for the Seagulls over the course of the season.

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Credit: bbc.co.uk

Hemed has only featured for the full ninety minutes in five matches this season. In those games, he scored 4 goals and got 1 assist. The Seagulls could easily be third without his crucial goals in narrow victories against Cardiff and Burton.

Despite the limited game time, Hemed has worked hard and proven himself at every chance chance Hughton has given him. The striker has played 704 minutes in 2017, scoring 8 goals, this means he averages one goal every 88 minutes. When you compare this to Glenn Murray, who was brilliant up until December but has somewhat dropped off since January, the difference in form is remarkable. The English striker has scored 3 goals in 1064 minutes in 2017. That is one goal in every 354 minutes or 1 goal in every 4 games.

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Credit: zimbio.com

Back-to-back home matches against Blackburn and Birmingham between the 1st and 4th April are the perfect platform for Hemed to start and get another good run in the side – it would make perfect sense. Glenn Murray has looked fatigued in recent games, he is 33 after all, it is very rare a striker is able to keep performing at the top of their game week in, week out.

Last of all, as a Brighton fan, it is credit to how far we’ve come as a club that we have substitutes who are full internationals for their country. Who would have envisioned that fifteen years ago?

Article by George Carden
Contact:
georgecarden99@gmail.com
Twitter: @George_Carden

Brighton Still Well Equipped for Top Two Finish

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image courtesy of http://www.seagulls.co.uk

 

Brighton are still well equipped for a top two finish after spending four days recuperating in the province of Valencia on the east coast of Spain. Chris Hughton’s side suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Leeds due to a brace from former Albion loanee, Chris Wood.

Despite the defeat, the performance wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Both goals were avoidable thanks to shoddy defending from Lewis Dunk and Fikayo Tomori. At the other end, Brighton’s main men were not at their best, chances for Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert were wasted. On another day, the result could have been completely different. However, you can’t afford to dwell on mistakes at this stage of the season.

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The deserved break and three-day fitness camp should see players and management refreshed for the Blackburn match at the Amex on April Fools Day.

The first week of April sees Brighton face Blackburn and Birmingham City at home, as well as Holloway’s flying QPR side at Loftus Road on April 7. In the space of a week, Promotion could look more of a certainty than a dream. In the same week, Huddersfield have a straightforward match against Burton Albion, another home fixture against 8th placed Norwich, and an away match versus struggling Nottingham Forest.

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Photo: BHA Supporters Blog – QPR vs Brighton 2015/16

 

If Brighton are able to get 7 points out of those 3 games, they will be on 85 points.  Last season, Brighton were on 75 points after 40 games, they are 2 points better off with 2 less games currently. It shows how competitive the Championship has become at the top of the table. It is almost a certainty that more than 90 points will be needed for top two.

I would be much more worried if Brighton lost to Bristol City 4-0. However it can be said, all three top teams are dropping points at the moment. Newcastle have acquired 2 points out of a potential 9 in their last three games. Brighton and Huddersfield have 6 points out of a potential 9 in their last three games. The only team who have been undefeated for more than three games in the top six is Leeds. They are unbeaten in seven matches.

The end of another Championship season is drawing closer. Brighton are in a great position in terms of points tally and goal difference (+30 compared to Huddersfield’s +4 goal difference). If you told me that we would be on 77 points with eight games left and have a six point gap on third, I would have metaphorically bit your hand off!

 

Article by George Carden
Contact:
georgecarden99@gmail.com
Twitter: @George_Carden

The Day After: A Brighton Fan’s Thoughts on the Game


Football can be cruel. In the space of minutes, a result can be turned on its head and throw fans through every emotion thinkable. Fulham were on the receiving end of that when Brighton punished them with two goals in three minutes back in early January. That would be the unfortunate fate of Brighton last night. Goals from Mohamed Diame and Ayoze Perez in the space of eight minutes snatched 3 points and 1st place from Hughton’s clutches.

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Image sourced from: irishmirror.ie

Thoughts on the game…

Brighton started off the stronger of the two sides. Bruno was denied by Kyle Darlow after the keeper parried his powerful volley. Baldock also came very close after a clever free kick routine which saw him clear on goal. However, once again Darlow made the vital stop. The Magpies keeper made a few more decent saves against Knockaert and Murray

A scramble in the box granted Brighton a seemingly fortuitous penalty. Both Murray and Clark were pulling each others shirts. It was the first of many odd decisions by referee,  Bobby Madley. Murray stepped up and converted the penalty.

Both teams had very good chances to score. Gouffran should have capitalised from Stockdale’s mistake. Brighton were unlucky to have a header cleared off the line. On another day the score could of been much higher for both teams.


Player Ratings

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Image sourced from: dailymail.co.uk (Getty Images)

 

It was a very mixed game for Brighton. The Seagulls created many great chances in the first 30 minutes. However, it was Newcastle who controlled the rest of the match in search of an equaliser.

David Stockdale – 6 – The keeper made some important saves which undeniably kept Brighton in the match. However, he almost gifted Gouffran a goal with a careless pass. Stockdale also should of done better with his punch for the first goal. It left him out of position for Diame’s fortuitous deflection.

Bruno – 5 – Unlucky not to score from his powerful volley. He was caught out of position and needed to win the header from Ritchie’s cross field ball to prevent the second goal.

Dunk – 7 – Another solid performance. Didn’t do much wrong and unlucky to see his header cleared off the line.

Duffy – 7 – Continuing to impress and wins virtually every header. A brilliant addition alongside Dunk. However shouldn’t have lost Perez in the box for Newcastle’s second goal

Tomori – 5Struggled on the left side because he is naturally right footed. Played well enough and made a few decent tackles.

Knockaert – 6 – We saw occasional glimpses of his quality. However, Newcastle did well in man marking and making sure he had limited space.

Sidwell – 8 – Another solid performance. He made some crucial tackles. Sidwell alongside Stephens is looking like a great partnership.

Stephens – 6 – Average game for his standard. He did his job but also misplaced too many passes on the night.

Murphy – 7 – One of the better performers in the team. His direct running threatened Newcastle in the first half. He went missing in the second half.

Baldock – 6 – Provided energy and pace upfront as he always does. He was unlucky not to score in first half.

Murray – 5 – Yes he scored a penalty. However, misplaced far too many passes and was isolated in the second half. Not his best game in a Brighton shirt.


Man of the Match:

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Image sourced from: dailymail.co.uk

Steve Sidwell. He was been rock solid in recent games. Provided some crucial tackles and link up play. He didn’t put a foot wrong in my opinion.



Remaining Games

We have played the best team in the Championship and were unlucky to lose. We lost to a team that is worth over £70,000,000 who also have a Champions League winning manager at their helm. We only have one top six side to play (Leeds). The rest of our games are very ‘winnable’ against mid-table sides. Villa might be a struggle on the last day of the season, but hopefully we will be promoted already by then.

We need Newcastle to do us a favour and beat Huddersfield and Reading in their two fixtures. If they do and we can get past Forest and Rotherham then we could be 12 points clear of third.

We have +30 goal difference and are 6 points clear of third. We are in a very strong position and promotion is in our hands. Lets just hope the players can hold their nerve.


Verdict

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Image sourced from: Getty Images

Both teams were below par however it was still an end-to-end entertaining game. The scoreline should have been much higher! Bobby Madley didn’t help the flow of the game by blowing the whistle every time players made contact. I thought we sat on our laurels too early and payed the price by sitting too deep and as a result gave Ritchie and Shelvey space to run at our defence and spray passes around the pitch. We were too sloppy with our passing which cost us when we were chasing a goal at the end. Hughton normally makes wise substitutions, however, taking Baldock off when it was 1-1 invited pressure and allowed the Magpies defence to play it out from the back. Kayal was also ineffective when he came on the pitch.

However, the chances we created would have probably been enough against a lower-placed side. It wasn’t our worse performance but a combination of misfortune and lack of concentration cost us. If we play like we did last night against Nottingham Forest, we are very likely to come away with three points.

Ideally, both Newcastle and Brighton will finish in the top two. Both teams have been superior than the rest of the Championship clubs over the course of the season and it would be the fairest outcome!

I believe Newcastle will win the league. Last night’s result will probably be the difference. However, winning the league is not the priority. Securing second and avoiding play offs is.

Top two is the priority and we are still in a great position to finish there.

Article by George Carden

How Lewis Dunk has evolved into a Premiership quality centre-back

From his days as a promising but reckless youngster, to a commanding ball-playing defender. The evolution of Lewis Dunk has been simply remarkable.

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Credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk

 

Since making his debut in a 0-0 draw with MK Dons back in April 2010. Lewis has gone on to make 133 senior appearances for Brighton and Hove Albion.

When did Dunk become a pivotal player for Brighton and Hove Albion?

Most Albion fans would agree that Dunk’s real breakthrough came in the 2014/15 season. Brighton finished 20th and without Dunk’s consistency and goalscoring threat, Brighton would of certainly been banished to League 1 obscurity. In all competitions, Lewis Dunk was Albion’s top scorer with 7 goals.

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Dunk sending off versus Derby 2015/16. Photo credit: http://www.irishmirror.ie

In the past, Dunk has been branded as a quality young player, however, a player who has a reckless streak. In the last 3 years, he has accumulated 4 red cards and 24 yellow cards (113 appearances). Two of those red cards were picked up last season.

Dunk has well surpassed last seasons yellow card total. The defender has picked up 11 this season which dwarfs his 6 from last season. Brighton fans have witnessed occasional lapses in concentration from the Brighton-born defender, he got sent off for a second yellow against the 3-1 defeat against Huddersfield and 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday for unnecessary tackles.

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There is no denying his quality with Shane Duffy and David Stockdale in preventing goals. In Dunk’s 29 appearances, Brighton have kept 17 clean sheets. When Dunk has been suspended, Brighton have drawn 3-3 against Brentford, lost 2-0 to Preston, and scraped a win away at Wigan.

With games coming up against Reading, Newcastle, Leeds and Derby. Every player will need to be at their best. That means no reckless challenges from Lewis Dunk!

Article by George Carden

Is Dale Stephens the central figure to Brighton’s promotion hopes?

Dale Stephens often goes unnoticed during matches, his stats on paper aren’t fantastic from an outsiders point of view either. Two goals and one solitary assist this season seems much worse than his seven goals and five assists from the 2015/16 season. However his link up play, physicality, and superb technical ability has been vital for Brighton this season.  In 22 appearances, Brighton have won 18 games, drawn 5, and lost 0 with Stephens in the team.

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Dale Stephens evades Hull’s Jake Livermore – Picture taken by: Richard Parkes

 

The 27 year old’s place at the club was shrouded in speculation in the summer. Multiple bids from Burnley, which ended with an eventual £7 million pound bid left Albion fans praying for the transfer window to slam shut as soon as possible. This ended with Stephens handing a transfer request in a last ditch attempt to force a move to Burnley and play Premier League football. The Bolton-born midfielder tweeted to Brighton fans about his desire to play in the Premier League, he also stated that he would honour his contract and do everything he could to help Brighton achieve promotion.

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Dale Stephens’ tweet composed on 01/09/16

Stephens offers technical ability superior to many Championship players. His 88% pass completion percentage and average of 46 passes per game show how crucial he is in the heart of Brighton’s midfield. According to http://www.squawka.com, 65% of Stephens’ passes have been forward passes.

The £500,000 investment for Dale in January 2014 has proved very wise of Tony Bloom and the scouting team. His current market value is £4,250,000 and is still rising from his consistently good performances (source: http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk)

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Stephens stated, “every time I’m on the pitch I’m fully committed. That’s something I will carry on doing throughout the season.”

“We want to do this together and sometimes you’ve got to be patient and wait for your chance.”

Dale Stephens should be fit enough to start Saturday’s game against Burton Albion after suffering from a recurring groin injury. He will prove vital for the must-win games against Burton and Ipswich. Win both of those, and Brighton and Hove Albion will be back on track.


Article by George Carden