• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Leeds United

    After picking up only their fourth league win at home this season against Birmingham at the weekend, Albion will be hoping to make it five as they face an in-from Leeds side in what will be the 100th competitive game to be held at the Amex.

    Seagulls fans were left sweating until the final whistle three days ago, with the possibility of picking up all three points not certain until the game reached it’s conclusion.

    Whilst the sides went in level at 1-1 at half time, David Stockdale’s penalty save just before the interval swung the momentum in Brighton’s favour, with goals from Inigo Calderon giving them a two-goal lead just before the hour mark.

    Another goal from Albion’s long-serving Basque was needed to make the game safe after The Blues got a goal back, however the away side grabbed a third as the clocked ticked over the 90 minute mark, ensuring that the four minutes of added time would have the home fan’s nerves on tenterhooks.

    It was an important result for a number of reasons. Not only has it put more distance between Chris Hughton’s side and the Championship relegation zone, but it was the first victory at the Amex on a Saturday in almost six months.

    It might not have been a run that the players were at all aware of, but it says a lot about our form at home this season, and with five of the current top eight sides among the seven teams who are yet to play in Sussex this season, getting that proverbial monkey off our back was important.

    The players will hope to use the momentum built from the weekend’s win as they go into their next home match this evening, against a Leeds side who have fought against the odds to be in the top half of the Championship as things stand.

    After a turbulent season on and off the pitch under the ownership of Massimo Cellino, The Whites are on their third permanent manager this season, with Neil Redfearn the latest to take up the position at the start of November.

    The 49-year old has been caretaker manager on three separate occasions in the past three years, and made the step up as permanent boss after the dismissal of Darko Milanic, who was in charge of the side for little over a month.

    Since the turn of the New Year the former Premier League side have found their feet, losing only once in the league to Brentford, and are on a run of five wins in their past six games, with three of those victories coming on the road.

    Whilst Albion season has had new life breathed into it since the departure of Sami Hyypia, it was three games into the 2014-15 campaign against Leeds where they first found success this season.

    The game at Elland Road was memorable for the Seagulls debut of Joao Teixeira, with the Liverpool loanee making an instant impact to put the away side ahead five minutes in, with Kazenga LuaLua adding a second late on in the game for Hyypia’s first league win as Brighton boss.

    After an impressive performance from the side on Saturday, there are unlikely to be any changes in the squad, with both Greg Halford and Solly March likely to be unavailable for selection this evening.

    However with the trip to Bolton quickly followed by a home tie with league leaders Derby this time next week, Hughton may look to freshen up the starting line-up and rotate the side. Dale Stephens and LuaLua came on in the second half for Albion on Saturday and both could start tonight, with Emmanuel Ledesma likely to make his debut after being an unused sub on Saturday.

    Ahead of today’s game, Hughton spoke on the club website about Saturday’s result, and how the small things are still what will make the difference as to whether Albion will be winning games or not going forward.

    “To be able to score four goals was a real positive, especially in the manner in which we did it. I don’t think there was anybody that felt we didn’t deserve to win.

    Teixeira helped seal Albion's first win of the season on his debut

    "Even if I look at recent weeks and the games we’ve played, like the ones we lost against Forest and Blackpool, the general opinion was that we didn’t deserve to lose either of those games. That shows that the margins are small and if we lose a game, we’re generally in with a chance and it can go either way. We just need to push those margins our way.”

    Whilst the 4-3 win at the weekend provided many positives, the way that Albion conceded goals in the second half made their job harder than it should have been heading into the closing stages of the game, and we can’t afford to allow other teams to give themselves a chance of getting back into the game as Birmingham did.

    Some teams will punish us for that kind of sloppiness at the back, and with the form they are in, Leeds are likely to be one of those sides. They are playing on a wave of confidence right now, and will fancy themselves to come here and get a result.

    With three points separating us and the relegation zone, we’re nowhere near out of the woods yet when it comes to survival in the Championship. Every point counts, and the sooner we can pull away from the bottom of the table the better.

    However we looked good going forward on Saturday, and the fact we scored most of the chances we had shows a real improvement on what has gone before this season.

    A similar performance tonight is needed. We’ve had many great afternoons and evenings at the Amex in the past three and a half years, from the opening day comeback against Doncaster, to the St Patrick’s Day Massacre of Palace and FA Cup success against Newcastle. Hopefully game number 100 is another that we can look back on fondly.
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