• Championship Preview: Fulham v Brighton and Hove Albion

    After coming back from two goals down to rescue a point against Reading on Boxing Day, Albion have the chance to move out of the Championship relegation zone when they travel to face Fulham this evening.

    After a poor opening half hour allowed the Royals to go two ahead, the Seagulls rallied late in the first half as Greg Halford’s long throw resulted in Jake Forster-Caskey grabbing a goal back before the interval.

    Had it not been for the heroics of Adam Federici in the second half, Nathan Jones would likely have picked up a win in his first game as interim manager, with the Reading keeper pulling out a number of stops to keep the home side out until Inigo Calderon’s 90th minute winner.

    It was a positive showing that bodes well for the side’s chances whilst Jones is in charge. The former Brighton left-back will be managing the team once again for the trip to Craven Cottage tonight, with Chief Executive Paul Barber suggesting they haven’t ruled out appointing the Welshman on a full time basis.

    However with the club deep in a relegation battle at the present time, the fans, and no doubt Tony Bloom would want an experienced head at the helm at this point in time, leaving Jones down the pecking order for the role.

    Chris Hughton and Tony Pulis are considered the favourites at this time for the role, with MK Dons boss Karl Robinson ruling himself out of the running, and Brian McDermott having committed himself to scouting for Arsenal till the end of the season.

    However with Crystal Palace having sacked Neil Warnock, and other Premier League sides at the bottom of the table likely to follow suit with their managers soon, Hughton and Pulis could bide their time until a position in the top tier opens up, as opposed to jumping into the Amex hot seat.

    When Albion and the Cottagers last squared off a month ago today, only a point separated the two sides. Fast forward 30 days later and the West London side have extended that gap to eight points.

    Jones is being considered by Albion as a permanent managerial candidate

    The appointment of Kit Symons has turned their form around after a disastrous start under Felix Magath, something Seagulls fans will hope can be achieved when they have a new manager in place.

    A month ago it was the away side that left the Amex with all three points, as they came from a goal down to win 2-1 over Sami Hyypia’s men. The game was notable for the debut of Darren Bent for Albion, having joined on loan until the end of December that week.

    The England striker scored on his first appearance, finding the back of the net on 52 minutes after being put through on goal by a sublime Adrian Colunga through ball.

    However Hugo Rodallega struck back for the visitors nine minutes later, with Lasse Vigen Christensen’s deflected strike sealing victory for the former Europa League finalists with 13 minutes remaining.

    The last clash between the sides at Craven Cottage in November 1996 saw the home side come out on top with a comfortable 2-0 win over the struggling Seagulls side fighting for both football league survival and to get rid of Bill Archer and David Bellotti. Albion’s most recent victory in West London came in November 1993 through a solitary goal from Kurt Nogan.

    Ahead of tonight’s match, Jones may be forced into one change from the draw against the Royals on Boxing Day.

    Darren Bent was brought off in the first half with a groin problem, and will be assessed ahead of the game to see whether he can play the last game in his current loan spell at the club.

    Craig Mackail-Smith looked bright on his return to the side when he came on for Bent, and is likely to make his first start since the 1-1 draw with Cardiff at the end of September.

    Gordon Greer, Kazenga Lua Lua and Sam Baldock are unlikely to be fit in time to feature tonight, with Bruno serving the second game of his three-match ban.

    Speaking ahead of tonight’s game, Jake Forster-Caskey believes they will be going into the game fully prepared and up for the challenge they face.

    Bent may miss last game of his loan spell

    “We played them and know what they’re about, but they know what we’re about.

    “We’ve been working on a couple of different things and we’ll go there looking to press them and put them under severe pressure for the entire game. Hopefully we can go there and get the right result.”

    Greg Halford is set to play the last game in his short-term loan from Nottingham Forest tonight. Whilst his plans from January are currently up in the air, the defender spoke about the togetherness in the squad, and his belief that they need a more aggressive attitude on the pitch.

    “At the minute because we’re such a young squad we are having to learn a lot faster than most other teams, but we need to be nastier.

    “We need to be a bit angrier on the pitch and just stick together. The lads are great here. Everyone gets on with everyone and the staff bring everyone in together and it’s a really great atmosphere, but we do need to be a bit nastier on the pitch.”

    The second half performance at the Amex last Friday shows promise that the side can get themselves out of their current predicament, and had it not been for Federici’s man of the match performance between the sticks they would have picked up the win.

    With only three points separating them from Millwall just outside the bottom three, a win would be a great confidence booster to narrow that gap and begin the job of turning around our fortunes.

    A win for Wigan could see them jump ahead of us on Tuesday, but by making the points difference smaller it benefits us in the long run going into the New Year.

    As with many games under Hyypia, the last outing against Fulham was decided by small margins, and that will likely be the case once again.

    They have a number of dangerous individuals, however it’s down to Albion to work as a team to get the best result possible and end what’s been an up-and-down 2014 on a high.

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