• Championship Preview: Middlesbrough v Brighton and Hove Albion

    With an early kick-off on their final league game, Albion face their longest trip of the campaign as they travel to Middlesbrough to bring the curtain down on what has been a disappointing season for them in the Championship.

    Whilst their place in the second tier of English football was already very much secure last weekend, the Seagulls were unable to end their last game at the Amex on a high as they were beaten 2-0 by league leaders Watford.

    Chris Hughton’s side started brightly, with an altered formation that included three centre backs, allowing them to take the game to the visitors in the early going.

    However a mistake from Gordon Greer around the half hour mark allowed Troy Deeney to score, and from that point the Hornets looked comfortable on their way to securing a place in the Premier League next season.

    Once again it was the issue of finding the back of the net that made the difference last Saturday, and it's a problem that made April a forgettable month for all at the club.

    Six games played, no wins, one draw, and five defeats, with only one goal scored during that time. The fact most of the defeats were by one goal once again highlights how not taking their chances this season has been the margin separating Brighton and sides higher up the table.

    Had it not been for the nine point gap built up before the international break in March, Albion would have been under much more pressure going into the final few games. The fact they weren’t dragged into the relegation mire is because the likes of Millwall and Wigan were worse this season, and left themselves too much to do late on in the campaign.

    Most Seagulls fans are now looking to this summer already after the disappointment and frustration of this season, however there is still the matter of the final game being played today at the Riverside Stadium.

    Having not had much to cheer about during the campaign, the travelling support making the 600 miles may be hard pushed to get a result against a Boro side who’ve been in the thick of the promotion race all season.

    However it's all but certain the home side won't achieve automatic promotion to the top tier. The only circumstance whereby Aitor Karanka’s side are the division’s runners-up is victory for them, defeat for Bournemouth, and a 19-goal goal difference swing in their favour to go up.

    Therefore today is essentially a dead rubber for both sides, but with Hughton having spoken previously about wanting to see his side pick up as many points as possible this season, there’s no doubt he’ll be expecting his players to give 100% in the game.

    Whilst Middlesbrough have generally performed better against Albion, on Teesside it’s the away side who have had the advantage in recent years, picking up all three points in their last two visits.

    A solitary goal from Matthew Upson with only four minutes remaining was enough to seal a win for Oscar Garcia’s side last season. Brighton also found the back of the net late on in the last game between the teams at the Amex in October earlier this season, however Greer’s goal on 88 minutes was merely a consolation, with strikes either side of half time enough to hand Boro the win.

    With nothing to play for but pride in their final game, Hughton is unlikely to take any risks with bringing players still on the mend into the side. Solly March has begun training again, however with 20-year old having suffered numerous injury setbacks this season, he won’t be risked on Teesside.

    Mustapha Carayol’s time at the club is also up after finishing up his loan spell in Sussex. The winger was on-loan from Middlesbrough, therefore would have been unable to feature today.

    However Albion’s boss could give a debut to one of the club’s youth prospects, who has travelled up with the team for today’s game.

    Striker Tilley, 16, could make his debut for the first team after travelling with the squad to Boro.

    Sixteen-year old James Tilley is a first-year scholar at the club’s academy, has featured for both the Under 18 and 21 sides this season, and signed professional terms with the club in March this year. Whilst it’s uncertain whether he will make the match day squad, or whether he has gone up with the first team for experience, it’s a positive move to see that Hughton is willing to give the younger players at the club a chance.

    Speaking ahead of the game, Brighton's boss has spoken about the struggles the club have had this season, and how they will be looking to avoid repeating them when they start afresh in August.

    “The expectation levels rise among the supporters; they see the fabulous stadium and training facilities that we have and want to see us continuously progressing.

    “But every club will have a time where they don’t reach those expectations. One thing we’ve learned from this season is the margins are not massive between where we are and the top of the league.

    “But we need to make sure we do the work that will enable us to have a far better season in the next year.”

    Today’s game may hold no significance for Albion, however that doesn’t mean to say they will just roll over and make it easy for Middlesbrough to secure third place this afternoon.

    Everyone at the club knows it’s been a disappointing season, and to close that campaign with an early kick-off against the team furthest away from you geographically with nothing to play for is about as dull as it can get on paper ahead of the game.

    Whilst victory will be a hard ask, if the supporters at least see their team putting in 100% effort to try and win the game with a good performance, then they may go back home after the game happy with how their team have done.

    The season has been full of ups and, in truth many downs, however surviving has been key for a while now. After all that’s gone wrong on the pitch, a victory on the last day of the season would be a positive way to end things heading into the 2015-16 campaign in the summer.
  • Advertising