• Championship Preview: Huddersfield Town v Brighton and Hove Albion

    Having fallen to a 2-1 defeat against Middlesbrough on their return from the international break at the weekend, Albion and manager Sami Hyypia will be under more pressure than ever to win games as soon as possible, starting with tonight’s trip to Huddersfield.

    After promising performances that just lacked the cutting edge prior to the latest two-week break, the Seagulls looked to have taken a step back in their progression against Boro at the Amex, with some fans starting to question the Finn’s position at the club with them sitting just one point above the relegation zone.

    The same problems up front were there for all to see at the weekend, with good chances that other sides are putting away squandered easily, with the lack of urgency to get back into the game after conceding the second goal also disheartening.

    It means that Brighton go into tonight having not picked up three points in the Championship in over two months – a run of eight games without a win. With a quarter of the season gone, they need to start turning their fortunes around tonight.

    However they won’t have an easy task of doing that against the Terriers. They were the first side to have a change in management in the league this year when Mark Robins departed after their opening day defeat to Bournemouth.

    Hyypia and his players under pressure after eight league games without a win

    His replacement was the highly popular former Charlton boss Chris Powell. Whilst it took a few games for him to settle in to the job, they found some momentum at the end of September and are on a four game unbeaten run, having picked up three victories in those games.

    In the 48 meetings between the two sides it’s Albion who go into this evening’s clash at the John Smith’s Stadium with the historical advantage, having beaten them 20 times, with the West Yorkshire side having won 16 and the other 12 ending in a draw.

    Two of those stalemates came last season, with the Seagulls need a late equaliser to secure a point in this fixture six months ago. A questionable free kick given just outside Brighton’s box six minutes into the game was duly put away by Oliver Norwood, however with seven minutes remaining Albion fullback Bruno ghosted in on the right hand side of the box and slotted home to ensure they left with a point.

    Albion’s last victory away at Huddersfield came the season before last in November 2012, as the newly home side were undone by two first half goals from winger Will Buckley, with Simon Church netting a consolation goal for the home side in second half stoppage time.

    The away side are unlikely to field a changed back five from Saturday’s loss to Middlesbrough. Right back Bruno is still suffering from the same groin problem that kept him out of the previous game, therefore Inigo Calderon will play on the right of the defence once again.

    With so many games coming up in a short period of time, some rotation in midfield is a possibility to keep everyone as fresh as possible for the next game, with the option of Rohan Ince replacing Danny Holla, however Gary Gardner and Jake Forster-Caskey are likely to keep their places in the starting XI with Dale Stephen’s still injured and Kemy Agustien’s status unknown.

    After taking a knock to the head in the opening minutes of the Boro clash, Joao Teixeira was taken off after discussions between Hyypia, his medical staff and vice-captain Calderon. With concerns as to whether he suffered a concussion or not, the Liverpool loanee is a doubt for this evening.

    Bruno salvaged a point for Albion in Huddersfield six months ago

    Fans had called for the introduction of Paddy McCourt for an extended period of time for a few weeks, and got their wish when the Northern Irishman replaced Teixeira 30 minutes into the contest. Paddy could now be in contention to start this evening alongside either Adrian Colunga or Kazenga Lu Lua, with the latter possibly rested and brought on later on to try and make things if they aren’t winning.

    Up front there won’t be change. Craig Mackail-Smith is still out with a hamstring injury, so after Chris O’Grady’s disappointing second half showing, Sam Baldock leads the line once again, despite him having not impressed in front of goal yet for us.

    A number of players have represented both sides over the years. Leon Knight and Liam Dickinson both spent spells on loan in west Yorkshire before making their respective moves to the Withdean Stadium, whilst former Albion player and manager Chris Cattlin began his senior career at Huddersfield in 1964, and would end up playing in blue and white Goldstone 12 years later.

    One current Terriers played who could feature today and has strong links with Sussex is Joel Lynch.

    The Eastbourne-born defender was in the club’s youth setup from around the age of 15, and was part of what was seen in 2005-06 as a promising Brighton youth team – featuring the likes of Joe Gatting and Tommy Elphick – under future Albion boss Dean Wilkins.

    They unexpectedly made the quarterfinals of the FA Youth Cup that season, with the highlight of that run being the 2-1 win over Chelsea’s youngsters, including jack Cork, Scott Sinclair and future Seagulls midfielder Liam Bridcutt in front of thousands of supporters at Withdean.

    Two weeks prior to that game, Lynch was handed his senior debut aged 18 against Southampton, and would go on to sign a three year contract the following summer.

    Utilised primarily in the centre of defence, but also on occasions at left back, Lynch impressed his peers during his time at the club with many seeing his future being somewhere in the top two tiers of English football.

    After seeing himself fall in the pecking order behind fellow youth team graduate Elphick and new signing Colin Hawkins under Micky Adams in 2008, Lynch handed in a transfer request that was rejected, however he was eventually allowed to join Nottingham Forest on-loan, with his move eventually being made permanent at the end of the season.

    The 27-year old has been with Huddersfield since 2012, and in his time there has also received his first international cap after being called up for Wales that summer.

    Saturday’s defeat has thrown up more questions than answers about what this Brighton side is capable of this season. The current position in the table should be a worry, however it’s true that small margins here or there are still making the difference in the end result in games.

    There’s only so long that can continue without serious a consideration of Hyypia’s tactics and position arising amongst not only the fan base, but the board and chairman also. Whilst it is already starting to happen with the former, it feels premature because there is potential in this side, and against good sides such as Forest and Watford we have shown this.

    Ultimately it’s results that count, and now the players need to prove that they can go out there, put their chances away and get that result. Those need to start coming soon before we do start slipping into a relegation battle.
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