• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Bolton Wanderers

    Tuesday night saw Albion score their first points of the season away at Leeds, and with supporters moods lifted now that the duck has been broken, it’s back to the Amex for Bank Holiday weekend football action.

    Sami Hyypia’s side will be aiming to pick up their first points at home in the Championship, though in fairness they’ve only had one stab at achieving that so far in the opening game against Sheffield Wednesday.

    Today they welcome a Bolton side who have only picked up a solitary point in their opening three games, and who will no doubt be looking to be more competitive than they were against the Seagulls last year.

    The former Premier League side struggled at times in their second season back in the English second tier, however they eventually finished safe from the relegation dogfight in mid-table.

    However it was all one-way traffic last term, as Albion completely dominated the fixture both home and away.

    The clash at the Amex in September 2013 was memorable for a number of reasons, but in particular for the second half comeback after David Lopez’s own goal put the visitors ahead at half time.

    Albion went on to grab three goals in the space of four minutes, with Inigo Calderon and Will Buckley scoring to help turn the game on its head and secure a 3-1 victory. Incredibly this was also the first time that the Seagulls had come from behind to win since Buckley’s brace earned victory late on in the first Amex league game against Doncaster in August 2011.

    Overall it’s Brighton who have a very narrow historical advantage in the tie. They hold six wins in all competitions over the Trotters since their first clash in the FA Cup in 1907, with the first of those not coming until Albion’s inaugural season in the top flight of English football in 1979.

    The Greater Manchester side hold four wins, the most recent of those being at the Macron – then known as Reebok - Stadium in March 2013, when Ashley Barnes was infamously sent off for tripping up referee Nigel Miller. The pair have also played out 5 five draws.

    After Tuesday’s impressive display at Elland Road that saw some unlikely selections from the Finn pay off, it’s likely that there will only be a few changes made.

    The arrival of Joe Bennett (pictured below right) on loan from Aston Villa as the first choice left back means he is expected to make his debut at the expense of Adam Chicksen

    With Andrew Crofts available after serving a three-match ban for his opening day red card, he should be a shoe-in to slot straight back into midfield with Kemy Agustien unlikely to start again today because of a twisted ankle.

    Having played a different role the midfield in the past few games, Bruno could drop back into his natural position at right back in place of Inigo Calderon if Crofts and one of Rohan Ince or Nzuzi Toko are added to the starting XI. However both he and Calde may retain their respective places from Tuesday night.

    Danny Holla and Joao Teixeira are set to make their full debuts at the Amex after starting on Tuesday night, however winger Paddy McCourt is likely to start on the bench again.

    The Northern Irishman, who joined Albion as a free agent after leaving Barnsley, has admitted he hasn’t had a full pre-season schedule despite training with former Tykes manager David Flitcroft at Bury, and won’t be ready to play a full 90 minutes for a few weeks.

    The only other confirmed absentees through injury are Solly March, whose back issues are still causing problems for the club’s medical team, and Dale Stephens.

    Whilst Dougie Freedman has had a lot of history as a player and manager in games against Albion through his association with Crystal Palace, The Trotters do have a former Seagulls player in their midst, although it’s one we’d all probably rather forget about.

    Striker Craig Davies was one of many names brought in by Micky Adams in his attempt to steer the club away from relegation during his second tenure in charge of the club in January 2009.

    The then 23-year old had shown some promise in his time at Oldham and Stockport, and made the right impression on his debut with a goal in a 4-2 defeat to Peterborough.

    However from there his Albion career went quickly downhill. In his following 15 appearances up to the end of the season he failed to score another goal, and quickly gained a reputation for missing sitters, coining the phrase “Barndoor Davies” on NSC.

    He made only five appearances the following season, and was loaned out to Yeovil Town and Port Vale before having his contract mutually terminated after 18 months.

    Like a number of former Seagulls strikers (see Chris Wood and Sam Vokes) Davies started to find his best form after leaving the club, with a 23-goal haul for Chesterfield securing him a move to Barnsley in the Championship, where he did enough to get on Bolton’s radar, and joined them in January last year.

    At this stage of the season it’s difficult to read into either teams form and results as a benchmark for how the game will go. Whilst Bolton have stuttered so far in the league, Albion were in that same position before Tuesday night, and one good result coupled with a number of signings has dramatically altered the atmosphere in sections of the support.

    Freedman will be under pressure to get things right, and whilst we would love to be the ones to make his life more difficult after the final whistle has gone, in the Championship there’s no guarantees things will work out as you think or hope they will.

    However with a renewed sense of optimism after the first win, signs of the side starting to click on the field and fresh faces bolstering the squad, Hyypia’s men will be gunning to build up a run of good results and will be wanting to do so as soon as possible, starting today back at the Amex.
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