• FA Cup Preview: Brentford v Brighton and Hove Albion

    After the unveiling of his appointment as Albion’s new manager on the final day of 2014, Chris Hughton takes charge of his first game this afternoon as Brighton begin 2015 with an FA Cup Third Round trip to Brentford.

    With the side having dragged themselves out of the relegation zone on goal difference with a 2-0 win over Fulham in Nathan Jones’ last game as interim boss, The Seagulls may see todays game as a welcome distraction, and might possibly be the perfect game for Hughton to begin his tenure.

    With surviving in the Championship the main priority, being given a 10-day gap between his arrival in Sussex on Wednesday this week and the next league game away to Charlton next Saturday to work on things and properly settle in will benefit both the club and the man taking charge in the dugout.

    That doesn’t mean to say that today will be a throwaway game. Albion have performed well in the FA Cup over the past half a decade. They’ve made it past the third round in the past five seasons in a row, and the lure of a cup run is always something that fans seek.

    For Hughton, it will also be a first chance to see what his players are made of, and to assess where he may need to improve the squad with the January Transfer Window having swung open.

    The former Norwich, Birmingham and Newcastle manager brings the experience of managing at this level that was sorely lacking in the first half of the season, and is a solid appointment that should please most fans.

    His first game pits him up against one of his former sides in the high flying Bees, who have been one of the surprise packages of the Championship this season, with Mark Warburton’s side currently sat in the final play-off spot after 24 league games.

    This will be the second time that the two sides have met at Griffin Park this season. The previous game at the start of September saw the home side narrowly come away with all three points in a five goal thriller, as goals from Gordon Greer and Danny Holla weren’t enough to prevent Albion from falling to a 3-2 defeat.

    Albion job is Hughton's first management role since being let go by Norwich in April last year

    The teams have met three times in the history of the FA Cup previously, with Albion coming out on top on two of those occasions. The last meeting in the competition came in the First round in November 1987, as a Garry Nelson brace sealed victory for Barry Lloyd’s side.

    Whilst it is unclear how much Brighton’s new boss will change the side after only a few days working with his players, he will be forced into making some tough decisions regarding who features in the matchday squad.

    Four of the loan players – Elliott Bennett, Darren Bent, Gary Gardner and Greg Halford went back to their parent club’s at the end of December, although Halford was re-signed on a new deal until the end of the season yesterday.

    With Gordon Greer back in contention and Bruno serving the last game of his suspension, it’s likely the Seagulls skipper will be the only change to the back four from Monday’s trip to Craven Cottage.

    With Hughton stating that he likes to play a 4-2-3-1, Rohan Ince and Holla are likely to retain their places in defensive midfield.

    Any three of Joao Texieira, Solly March, Adrian Colunga and Jake Forster-Caskey could play further up in midfield, supporting either Craig Mackail-Smith or Sam Baldock up top.

    Speaking ahead of the trip to West London, Greer spoke to the media about how Hughton’s arrival will force the players to step up their game to impress the new gaffer.

    “When a new manager comes in everyone has a fresh start, so everybody is trying their best – the players that are playing, the players that aren’t playing - to get noticed and get in the team and do what the manager wants them to do so they maintain their position within the team.”

    Albion’s captain also spoke about previous games in the competition with the club, which have provided some ups and downs.

    Greer set to make his first appearance since the end of November today

    “Some of the fondest memories and some of the worst memories I’ve got have been part of the competition.

    “Getting to play Liverpool at Anfield was amazing. Obviously when I look back on it now, we got heavily beat so it wasn’t a great experience in that sense, but to go there and play was fantastic, and you don’t get these opportunities unless you’re still in the competition.”

    Ahead of his first game in charge of The Seagulls, Hughton spoke about the expectations he has from his players this afternoon.

    “At this stage it’s a balance of what I want to see from them, but also it’s about what they can show me.

    “Certainly a new manager coming into a club wants to see competition and players fighting for positions. It’s an opportunity for me to push the side towards getting a result but it’s also a great opportunity for them to show me what they can do.”

    Having watched a lot of Championship action from this season before taking up the managerial role at the Amex, Hughton also gave his thoughts on today’s opponents.

    “They haven’t generally made too many changes with the squad that they’ve got, and I think that’s down to the success that they’ve had over the season.

    “They’ve had a philosophy of play that’s seen their season be so far very successful, and I don’t expect them to change that. Anybody going there knows they’re in for a very tough game, but it’s an opportunity for us to go there and continue what is at this moment a decent run.”

    Whilst the league survival is the priority, with Hughton now at the helm we should soon see ourselves ease our way towards up the table and away from danger. Therefore there should be no need for us to write this game off as an unnecessary distraction.

    A run in the cup is always exciting for supporters, and that kind of joy has rarely been felt this season. Progression to the next round and further beyond can help provide that.

    Whilst we’re unlikely to see any revolutionary changes to the style of play in such a short space of time, Hughton will want to see his side put on a good performance first and foremost.

    With Brentford also likely to be up for going further in the competition, we could be set for another thrilling contest as we saw earlier in the season, however hopefully it’s us coming out with victory this time, and with a place in the velvet bag for Round Four.

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