• Championship Preview: Cardiff City v Brighton and Hove Albion

    Having been beaten for the third time in a row at home at the weekend, Albion will be hoping to winning ways on the road as they head to Cardiff for a midweek evening encounter with former boss Russell Slade.

    The Seagulls looked firmly in control of Saturday’s contest in the first half of the game against Nottingham Forest, and after seeing a number of chances go missing earlier in the half, Lewis Dunk seemingly put them on track when he found the net on 42 minutes.

    However a defensive mistaker from David Stockdale was capitalised on minutes later, with Brighton’s keeper caught in no-mans-land during a Forest set-piece and could only watch as Danny Collins’ header went in off the post.

    Forest rallied after the break and found the back of the net twice to take a two goal lead late into the game until Beram Kayal found the net on his debut as the game ticked away into added time, with the Israeli also having another chance cleared off the line by the visitors’ defence.

    It was a case of too little too late at that point for Chris Hughton’s side, who should have taken control of the game and scored more in the first half and made it harder for Forest to get back into the game, which was the situation they found themselves in after going 3-1 down.

    Other than the debut performance of Kayal, the main positive that can be taken away from Saturday afternoon was that of the bottom eight sides, only Rotherham avoided defeat, therefore Albion didn’t lose ground on many of the sides directly above them.

    However with only two points still separating them from the bottom three the need to pick up points is as vitals as it has ever been. With getting results at home still a struggle for The Seagulls, they need to make their away form in the next two games count as they face two sides in games that you can certainly attach the tag “winnable” to.

    Tonight Hughton and his players make their solitary trip of the season outside of England as they head to the Welsh capital to take on a Cardiff side that are still struggling to find consistency despite a change in management earlier in the season.

    Recently the Bluebirds have struggled to make the push for the play offs as expected, having only picked up one win in their last nine games, and sitting firmly in mid-table in 15th place.

    The last time the sides faced off in September The Bluebirds were in a period of managerial transition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had stepped down from the role after a poor start to life in The Championship, with Leyton Orient boss Russell Slade having been sounded out as his successor.

    However Orient’s rejected The Championship side’s approach to talk to Slade about the role, leading him to resign from his post, and help the Bluebirds as a consultant until he was appointed the following month after legal discussions between the two clubs had concluded.

    Therefore this will be the first occasion that Albion take on the man who led them to League One safety in 2009, with Slade cleaning up the mess left in the wake of Micky Adam’s second reign in charge of the club.

    However the change in Chairman saw a change in expectations, with the future of the Amex secured by Tony Bloom’s investment, and after struggling in the first few months of the following season Slade was dismissed by Bloom, with Gus Poyet coming in as his successor.

    Despite this, the 54-year old is fondly remembered by fans for that Great Escape, and will no doubt receive a great reception from the away fans.

    In the meeting between the two sides earlier in the season it was a one-sided affair as Brighton took the game to the visitors in what was one of the best performances from the side under Sami Hyypia’s tenure at the club, however the heroics of ‘keeper David Marshall ensured that only Bruno’s opening goal on 20 minutes would find the back of the net, with Kenwyne Jones equalising for the Bluebirds only a minute later.

    With Albion having been boosted by the return of Kazenga LuaLua on Saturday, another midfielder could also make his comeback to help add more depth to Hughton’s squad.

    Stephen's last first team appearance came against Yeovil in April 2014

    Dale Stephens has spent the entire season so far on the sidelines with a recurring ankle problem, and having featured in three games for the Development Squad recently, the trip to Wales will be his first appearance in the mtachday squad, with Sam Baldock and Greg Halford also likely to go back into the squad after missing the game at the weekend.

    After being on the receiving end of a crunching foul early in the first half at the weekend, Solly March was taken off with a calf problem after 18 minutes, and may not play tonight.

    Having made an immediate impact off the bench in his debut against Forest, Kayal could make his first start for the club at the Cardiff City Stadium, with Danny Holla likely to make way in his place. Kazenga LuaLua is likely to go into the starting line-up in place of March.

    Ahead of the game Hughton spoke to the club website about the need for his players to forget about the recent results and keep their eyes on the task at hand tonight. With five games to play in the next 18 days, he believes they can’t afford to be distracted by previous results.

    “When you’re on the back of two league defeats, like we are, you want to quickly get back into a run of games and that’s the focus.

    “Apart from a free week next week, we’re back into two weeks of midweek fixtures again so it is relentless; you don’t have time to look forward to the next game or much time to reflect on the last one. We are now moving on to two very tough games this week.”

    With games coming thick and fast this month, there is a real need for Albion to build some momentum again as soon as possible. At some point the teams around us will start to pick up points again, and we need to either keep up with them when they do so, or pick up more points and get ourselves ahead of them.

    Home form still alludes us, therefore making the most of our away games is crucial at this point. Cardiff have been inconsistent of late and they will want to get back on form as well. However our performance earlier in the season shows that we can take the game to them, and having seen a change in management since then there is a feeling we are in a better position to get a win this time around.

    It won’t be an easy task to pick up three points against The Bluebirds, who under Slade can be a difficult side to play. The key for us today will be breaking them down and then building on any lead we can take.

    Conceding goals is still a problem for us, therefore we need to score more to make sure that if they get a goal back, it’s too late for them to change the score.

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