• Championship Preview: Sheffield Wednesday v Brighton and Hove Albion

    After a stalemate against Cardiff in midweek saw the gap between them and the Championship bottom three close once again, Albion will achieve something they've been unable to do in almost 101 years if they are to get back to winning ways at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon.

    Tuesday’s result in the Welsh capital was a game of few chances for Chris Hughton’s side, as they failed to provide much of a threat to the home side and were unable to find the breakthrough they needed to pick up a first win in four games.

    The main positive to take from the game was the return to action of midfielder Dale Stephens, who came off the bench for his first appearance in a Brighton shirt since April last year when he picked up an ankle injury that he has had recurring issues with since.

    With relegation threatened Millwall picking up their second win in three games at Birmingham on the same evening, they now sit on level points with The Seagulls, who remain outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

    With the potential of Albion dropping into the bottom three if The Lions better their result on Saturday, and with Ian Holloway’s side facing a potentially winnable trip to Leeds, The Seagull’s own trip to Yorkshire today gains even greater importance.

    Despite having scored the joint fewest goals in the division so far this season – on par with bottom-of-the-table Blackpool – The Owls have proved themselves to be one of the toughest sides for teams in the Championship to break down this season under Stuart Gray.

    They have drawn the same number of games as Brighton, however having picked up three more wins they find themselves in the top half of the table at this stage of the season.

    Having been taken over by a Thai Consortium at the end of January, the Owls made four deadline day signings, and despite currently being on a run of five games without a win, they will no doubt be eyeing the possibility of making a late push for a place in the play-offs.

    Whilst they haven’t had much success at home this season, Wednesday will be confident going into this game due to the fact that Albion have never picked up a win at Hillsborough in the club’s history.

    In 14 games at the Owls' home ground since February 21st 1914, The Seagulls have taken away four points in as many draws during that time, and have lost the other eight contests.

    Gray’s men also won the last meeting between the two sides on the opening day of this season at the Amex, with Giles Coke’s solitary goal in the first half sealing victory, with Andrew Crofts also being sent off in Sami Hyypia’s first league game as Seagulls boss.

    The previous three games in South Yorkshire have seen the home side pick up all three points, with last season’s match in March last year decided by a late goal from on-loan forward Leon Best.

    With the former Newcastle man now playing for Albion, there is every chance he could be lining up on the other side of the tunnel when the two sides head out onto the pitch this afternoon.

    The 28-year old made his first appearance in the starting XI since making his loan move from Blackburn last month at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday night, and whilst Sam Baldock is set to return to the squad after a hamstring problem, it’s likely he won’t be risked from the start. If Best doesn’t start today’s game then Chris O’Grady – who had a spell on-loan at Wednesday’s rivals Sheffield United earlier in the season – could make a return up front as the lone striker.

    With Kazenga LuaLua still slowly working his way towards full match fitness, there is a possibility the winger could start tonight’s game, with the 24-year old having come on as a substitute in the last two games. Solly March is still a doubt for today’s game through a calf injury.

    Speaking ahead of today’s game, Hughton stressed the importance of learning from previous results to improve their game at both ends of the pitch.

    Best has had three loan spells at Wednesday since 2005, scoring six times in 28 league appearances

    “We’ve had contrasting performances, from playing very well in the Ipswich game to not doing so well against Forest. I certainly felt that we did not deserve to lose, but we conceded three goals. It is about getting that balance.

    “In the Cardiff game, we certainly got part of that balance right by being defensively solid as a team, but then it’s about having opportunities to score goals as well. The teams that are in the best form and the teams that are at the top of the division are the teams that have struck that balance the best.”

    They say that records are there to be broken, and if there were a perfect time for Albion to break their Hillsborough hoodoo and pick up three points then it would be this afternoon.

    Whilst Hughton’s reign in charge got off to a great start, we’ve hit a speed bump in the last three weeks that has reminded everyone that we are still truly in a relegation fight, and that we need to be battling every minute of the way if we are to avert a drop into the third tier of English football.

    With our home form still off the rails, making the most of our away form, which has been marginally better this season, is crucial. Wednesday have only won three times in 15 league home games so far this season, and that offers up a great opportunity for us today.

    As with the recent trip to Blackpool, the playing surface could pose a problem, however it is something that Hughton and his staff already know about, and they would have prepared for it accordingly. The fact that The Owls haven’t performed well on it either this season also offers some comfort on that front.

    With goal difference being the only separating factor between us and the relegation zone, it’s now time for the team to take games by the scruff of the neck and get us out of trouble. A few wins can put us amongst the likes of Wednesday, but at this point it’s a case of putting that run of victories together, and that has to start soon.
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