• Championship Preview: Bolton Wanderers v Brighton and Hove Albion

    With back-to-back wins at the Amex having eased their relegation fears for the time being, Albion will be looking to take that form on the road for a tricky test against a Bolton side that are hard to beat in their own back yard.

    A dominant performance on Tuesday night saw Chris Hughton’s side seal a well-deserved 2-0 win over Leeds. Sam Baldock put the Seagulls ahead in the first half with a simple tap in, with a fortuitous deflection resulting in Ingo Calderon claiming his third goal in the space of two games.

    The result means that Brighton continued to put more daylight between themselves and the Championship bottom three, moving six points clear of the drop zone.

    Whilst anything could happen over the next 13 games, with the turnaround in form and performances that has been made under Hughton since he arrived just under two months ago, coupled with the side’s superior goal difference compared to many teams around them, the chances of Albion finding themselves playing in League One next season are slim.

    Having found some confidence once again at home, Hughton will want to see a similar showing from his players as they travel to Greater Manchester to face off against a Trotters side that could also still be dragged back into the relegation mix if they’re not careful.

    Whilst they have had mixed success since Neil Lennon took charge of the side in October, the former Premier League side have found most success this season on their own turf, with eight of their ten league wins having been picked up at the Macron Stadium this season.

    Wanderers have only been beaten four times at home this season, with the only clubs to take three points away from them being – Derby, Middlesbrough, Bournemouth and Watford – all sitting in the top six of the Championship table.

    With only the best sides having gone there and picked up the victory, the pressure will be on Albion to do the same, with a win allowing them to do the double over a second successive side in as many games.

    Before last weekend’s dramatic 4-3 win over Birmingham, the last time the Seagulls had picked up a home win at the Amex on a Saturday was against Bolton around six months prior in August last year.

    Both sides were managed by different men than they are now, with Hyypia in charge of Brighton, and Dougie Freedman still with Bolton at the time.

    After going behind on the 25th minute, the home side rallied quickly with Craig Mackail-Smith netting an equaliser 12 minutes later, before a goal from Joao Teixeira – making his home debut – in the second half sealed a first home win in the league for Hyypia.

    Whilst the starting line-up could remain fairly the same from the midweek win under the Amex lights, Hughton will be boosted by the return of Greg Halford from injury.

    The Nottingham Forest loanee has featured mostly from the bench since coming making the move to Sussex, and is likely to do so for today’s game also, with Aaron Hughes likely to make way for the versatile 30-year old.

    One player who will no doubt be looking for a chance to impress is winger Emmanuel Ledesma. The Argentinean has yet to make his first appearance, having been an unused substitute in his first two games since joining on loan from Middlesbrough.

    However with his loan initially just for one month, the 26-year old will want to get a chance to prove he is worth keeping on.

    Part of the reason Ledesma has yet to feature is no doubt down to the form of Inigo Calderon. Albion’s current longest serving player has flourished in his more forward role, and his recent performances could go a long to convincing the club he’s worth an extension to his contract, which runs out this summer.

    Ahead of the game, Hughton spoke to the club website about the difficulty of putting a consistent run of form together in this league, and that the players should be mindful of the fact that the six point gap between them and the relegation zone can easily slip away if they take their eye off the ball.

    Calderon has scored three times in two games since playing more forward role on the right wing

    “The most consistent teams are those that are in the top six. For the rest of us, and that’s a very big group of teams, it’s about trying to get that consistency.

    “Generally what has happened with this group of teams is that you can go on a good run, but then you have to sustain it and we found it hard to sustain.

    “We have to be conscious that we’ve had two good results. The results on Tuesday night went very well for us as regards to the teams around us, but if we don’t keep up then our fortunes can change very quickly.”

    The last two games have reinvigorated the club in terms of supporter’s belief in what the team can do under Hughton, after a run of results that saw Albion fall back towards the bottom three.

    Whilst we aren’t out of the woods yet, a good result in Greater Manchester would go a long way to making that job easier on us heading into the closing stages of the season.

    The factor of playing away will also be key going into today. Our best results and most consistent form has come on the road this season, however two good performances at the Amex mean we will now be expecting to see similar away from home.

    There is every chance we may set up differently at Bolton because of that, and the Trotters’ home form means that coming with a win won’t be an easy task.

    However the last few games have seen some of the best performances from the side, who really seem to be coming together and playing in a way that is producing goals, along with putting on good performances.

    There may still be some bumpy roads along the way in the final 13 games of the season, but after recent results, there’s every chance it could be the best period of the campaign for Albion.
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