• Championship Preview: Rotherham United v Brighton and Hove Albion

    After suffering their first defeat at home in five games against Norwich on Good Friday, Albion will be looking to put that result behind them quickly when they travel to face a relegation threatened Rotherham this afternoon.

    The Seagulls were unable to find much momentum going forward until the closing stages of the first half. After continuing in the same vein at the start of the second half, Bradley Johnson’s goal just after the hour was a sucker punch for Chris Hughton’s men, who were unable to find a way through a dogged Canaries defence.

    Brighton were probably guilty of not making the most of some chances in front of goal, however as it has been on many occasions this season it was the small margins that decided the game.

    With only Millwall the only side in the bottom three to win over the Easter Weekend, the gap between Albion and the relegation zone is now nine points – a sizable amount with only six fixtures left to play this campaign.

    With the 50 point mark generally considered to be enough to ensure survival, picking up victories in the next few games would allow Brighton to rest easy as the season draws to a close.

    Today’s trip to the New York Stadium provides a perfect opportunity for them to do just that, as they face off with a struggling Millers side who will be desperate to pick up all three points in their own battle against the drop.

    The South Yorkshire outfit sit a place above the relegation zone, with four points separating them from Millwall in 22nd place. They have lost their last four league games in a row, and with games against other sides in the bottom half of the table still to come they will fancy their chances of staying up if they can pick up a few wins.

    The Red’s fight for Championship survival has no doubt been made harder by speculation linking their ever-controversial manager Steve Evans with a move to Peterborough United.

    Going into the game Albion do hold a significant advantage, having not lost to today’s opponents in over 12 years, with the last two games played at Millmoor - the Millers’ former ground – between the two sides resulting in the Seagulls them returning to Sussex with all three points.

    The most recent of those matches on the opening day of the 2006-07 League One season saw Mark McGhee’s side begin life back in the third tier with a win as Alex Revell’s debut goal late in the first half sealed all three points.

    Eight years later and Revell was once again on the score sheet in the fixture, however this time it was for the other side as he helped secure a point for Rotherham at the Amex earlier this season in October.

    Joe Bennett gave Brighton the lead on the stroke of half-time, however three minutes after the interval Albion’s former frontman found the back of the net to level the scores.

    The 31-year old has now moved on to pastures new at Cardiff, and he won’t be the only player from the last encounter between the two sides who won’t feature this afternoon.

    Seagulls skipper Gordon Greer picked up his tenth booking of the season in the defeat to Norwich three days ago, meaning he’ll miss this afternoon’s trip to South Yorkshire as well as the home game with second placed Bournemouth on Friday evening.

    With Greg Halford having retained his place despite Lewis Dunk’s return from suspension on Good Friday, Albion’s top scorer is likely to make his return to the starting line-up alongside the Forest loanee today.

    Ahead of today’s clash with the Millers, Halford spoke about the test today’s opponents will pose. Whilst Albion’s players know what kind of game they’ll get up at the New York Stadium, Halford believes they will have a tough task on their hands to come away with all three points.

    Greer will miss the next two games after receiving his tenth yellow card in the league this season

    “There’s no easy game in this league, and teams are fighting for their lives and fighting to go up. They’re both as hard as each other and especially going away from home it will be a tough game, but we can compete with anyone in this league.

    “It will be a test. I know Matt Derbyshire – he works his socks off and he’s a real poacher. They’ll have target men as well and it’ll be another challenge, but we’ll be up to it.”

    Friday’s game highlighted the depth in quality between Albion and sides such as the Canaries at the top end of the table, albeit they still have a number of players in their side from their time in the Premier League.

    Whilst prioritising one game over another is usually frowned upon, at this point in the season it would make sense for us to look at the remaining games with Rotherham, Huddersfield and Wigan as where we are most likely to pick up points.

    However as is the case today, the run-in for the final six games will be anything but a walk in the park.

    Every team we have to play looks like they will have something to fight for as Halford alluded to, and that means that we will have to up are game if we are to come out on top.

    The Millers won’t want to drop back down to the third tier at the first time of asking, and Evans will no doubt want to depart on a high note if he does leave for the still vacant managerial role at London Road.

    With the nine point gap meaning that at this point we aren’t having to worry as much about the threat of relegation as other sides, until it’s mathematically impossible for us to go down there will always be that worry in the back of many people’s minds that we may get dragged back into the battle for survival.

    A win against a side below us would not only be a great way to bounce back from Friday’s defeat, but also puts us one step closer to being able to breathe a sigh of relief and look ahead to competing in the Championship next season.
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