• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Brentford

    Having seen his new side pick up two wins in his opening games as Albion boss on the road, Chris Hughton takes charge of his first game at home in front of an expectant Amex crowd this afternoon as his players square off against Brentford for the second time in the space of three matches.

    With last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Charlton extending their unbeaten run to five games and moving them three points clear of the Championship relegation zone, things are starting to look
    more promising for the Seagulls going forward.

    Whilst last Saturday’s game at The Valley looked certain to be finishing all square until Rohan Ince powered home a header from a Solly March free kick on 62 minutes, the fact that they were able to come away with a win from a game that earlier in the season they would likely have drawn or lost shows signs of confidence building amongst the squad as they build momentum and put together a good run of form.

    The victory also sealed a run of three straight wins away from home, with all the victories coming against side from London. However with Brighton set to face many of the sides sitting at the top end of the table in Sussex between now and the end of the season, they will need to transfer the performances and results gained on the road to the Amex.

    With the atmosphere and crowds in their own stadium having dropped to seemingly the lowest ebbs since it opened in 2011 at points this season, there is a need for the fire to be lit in the belly of the Amex crowd to give the team as much support as possible in their efforts to pick up their third league win at home.

    Hughton’s men will no doubt take some confidence in the fact they picked up a victory over today’s opponents only 14 days ago, although in the FA Cup as opposed to the Championship.

    In the former Newcastle and Norwich boss’ first game in charge of Albion, his side were well matched against The Bees in a game that could have gone either way.

    However Albion left it late to make it through to Round Four and set up a match with the holders Arsenal, as goals late in the game from Lewis Dunk and Chris O’Grady saw the Seagulls steal a victory at the death and avoid need for a replay.

    Unsurprisingly, on home soil Albion have had a clear advantage going into games against today’s opponents, having picked up 10 points out of a possible 12 from their last four games against the Bees in Sussex.

    The last time Albion played hosted this fixture in September 2010 saw them pick up a late victory at the Withdean Stadium to hold on to their place at the top of League One, having reached the summit three days earlier. Kazenga LuaLua struck in the 78th minute on that occasion to give Gus Poyet’s men the win.

    Once again this month, that day’s match winner LuaLua is unable to take part in the game due to still being on the road to recovery from a knee injury, therefore Chris Hughton is unlikely to swap the team around too much from the victory at the Valley.

    The area of the field that is once again likely to be scrutinised heavily is up front. With an experienced goalscoring forward for this level is no doubt high on Hughton’s wish list in the transfer window, the current front pairing of Sam Baldock or Craig Mackail-Smith pick themselves at this point, though Adrian Colunga and Chris O’Grady could both be alternate options up top.

    Speaking on the club website ahead of the game, Hughton believes that the importance at this stage is still for his side to rack up wins and move up the table before wanting to focus on getting the best performance out of his players.

    “When you’re at home you still have to try to win a game. If you’re playing too defensively against a good team than at some stage they’re going to hurt you. If that means playing a different way to get those points then you have to do that. Ultimately we want to win the game in the best way we can.

    “If you’re able to get those points than you’re able to build something. If not, then you’re always looking for solutions for that to happen. Ideally you want points first and then philosophies afterwards.”

    Vice Captain Inigo Calderon also spoke to the media ahead of today’s game, and he believes that they need to use their current good run of form to their advantage to get themselves out of trouble at the wrong end of the league.

    Dunk celebrates scoring the opener in FA Cup outing against the Bees two weeks ago

    “When you are in a good moment you have to take advantage of it because everything seems easier, so we have to make it last as long as possible.

    “We cannot relax as we are still near the bottom, but we have been better. The silly mistakes were costing us too much before but now we are winning and that’s the most important thing.”

    The swell of support from the away fans chanting his name at The Valley last weekend suggests that in his short time at the club, Hughton has already convinced many that he is the man to turn things around and lead the club to better things.

    Having proven himself on the road, the 56-year old now has the chance to start improving their fortunes in their own back yard. Seven of the current top eight are set to visit The Amex before the season’s end, and Albion need to start re-establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with at home.

    The Bees are the first of those seven to make that visit, with Ipswich following in midweek. The win two weeks ago will no doubt give us confidence going into the game, but as familiar as we will be with their style having already faced off twice this season, they will also be as familiar with ours.

    Winning home games has always been key to putting together a good season, and it’s something we need to start doing to continue the momentum that has been built in recent away games and continue to move away from danger.

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