• Capital One Cup Preview: Southend United v Brighton and Hove Albion; Tuesday 11th August 2015

    After Kazenga LuaLua got Albion off to a winning start on Friday night against Nottingham Forest, Chris Hughton’s side will look to keep that momentum going when they travel to Roots Hall to face Southend in the League Cup tomorrow evening.

    The winger’s low left footed strike in the 50th minute sealed a first opening day victory for the Seagulls since they took on Doncaster in the first league game at the Amex four years ago.

    It was a well-deserved result for a Brighton side who worked like a well-oiled machine to dominate proceedings. They showed attacking intent from the first whistle, and didn’t let the intensity drop, even after taking the lead. Albion could have gone in up at half time if it wasn’t for the performance of Forest keeper Dorius De Vries, who just about got a hand to Tomer Hemed’s header from close range in added on time.

    The Israeli striker was one of a number of players who stood out for Albion on the opening game of the season, with Beram Kayal, Gaetan Bong and LuaLua all impressing in the win. Overall it was a promising start from the side as a whole, showing that lessons have been learned from the disappointment of last season’s 20th place finish in the division.

    However there was disappointment from some sections of the fanbase that a certain player was missing from the match day squad – Bobby Zamora. The Seagulls latest and most exciting signing of the summer was presented to the crowd prior to the game, however he did not feature on the opening day.

    Having not had a pre-season under his belt, it’s completely understandable that Zamora would not be ready to feature four days after his return to the club – even from the bench. The 34-year old will need some time to get that fitness in place, and you would think that even tomorrow would probably be too early for him. A return for Albion against his former side Fulham at Craven Cottage this weekend is probably the earliest we could expect to see him in the squad.

    Image by Paul Hazlewood

    Albion off to a flying start, as Kaz celebrates scoring the first goal of the season v Forest

    With their first three points on the board, it’s now a case of maintaining that winning feel for Hughton and his men, and a cup-tie against League One opponents is a realistic opportunity to do so.

    The Shrimpers are back in the third tier of English football for the first time in five years. They narrowly sealed their return via the League Two play-offs last season, with a 7-6 penalty shootout victory over Wycombe Wanderers.

    21-year old ‘keeper Daniel Bentley made the crucial save in sudden death to seal the Essex side’s promotion, and was also voted the club’s player of the season after putting together a run of 10 clean sheets. He will be the key man looking to keep Albion at bay when the game gets underway tomorrow night. He wasn’t able to start off life back in League One with another clean sheet at the weekend, as Phil Brown’s side scored late on in the game to draw 1-1 with Fleetwood.

    In his post-match press conference after the Forest game, Hughton said that they would rotate the starting line-up for the trip to Roots Hall. With the possibility of them having to play seven games in the space of 18 days if they make it through to the next round of the competition, he will want to keep his players fresh for Championship action, which is no doubt a priority for him.

    Niki Maenpaa is likely to play between the sticks. The Finland international featured in pre-season games against Lewes, Crawley and Gillingham, however this will be the first chance to see how he copes under pressure in his competitive debut. In defence a first competitive start for Liam Rosenior is expected, after he came on as a second half substitute in Friday’s game. Glen Rea and Adam Chicksen are both likely to come in at centre half and left back respectively, with either Gordon Greer or Lewis Dunk likely to partner Rea in the middle.

    Albion have a number of options when it comes to central midfielders, however Rohan Ince is one player you would think is e a certain starter tomorrow night. Alongside him Jake Forster-Caskey or Andrew Crofts would be the likely starters, with the latter certain to get a great reception from the Albion fans in the away end having missed most of last season with an ACL injury. Danny Holla is also another that could feature, however he’d be competing with Ince for a place in the XI.

    Image by Paul Hazlewood

    Albion fans will get their first look at Maenpaa in competitive action at Roots Hall tonight

    Out wide vice-captain Inigo Calderon would be first choice to start. With Bruno and Rosenior contesting the right back position, Calde is more likely to be used in the right wing role that Hughton had him play during the second half of last season. Adrian Colunga could be utilised on the left wing for his first appearance since January, after his proposed permanent move to Granada fell through at the end of the season. 17-year old James Tilley is also an option, having played on the left of midfield during pre-season. The fact that they are the third and fourth choices out wide highlight the need for more strength in depth in that position before the end of the transfer window. Up front Chris O’Grady is the obvious choice to come into the side, with either Baldock or Hemed likely to play alongside him.

    Unsurprisingly the betting odds have Albion as the favourites to win going into the game. Most bookmakers have a Seagulls win priced around the 11/10 range, with SkyBet pricing the away side at a slightly better return of 5/4. A victory for the Shrimpers varies depending on who you’re betting with, however most are offer a return in the region of 21/10. The draw is priced again priced in a similar region to a Southend win. For more details on the various prices go to oddschecker.com

    Some bookmakers – Ladbrokes in this case – are also offering goalscorer odds. Whilst it’s unclear who will start, Hemed is the favourite of the strikers to score first at 5/1, with O’Grady at 11/2. For an outside bet at longer odds, Rohan Ince is 11/2 to score anytime, and after the cracker he scored against Swindon in the competition last season you can’t rule out the possibility of him ending up on the scoresheet again.

    Whilst the competition itself won’t be a priority for the club, keeping the winning mentality intact will be crucial if Albion are to put together a good run together during the opening months of the season. Victory against Forest was a great way to start, but there will be tougher tests than that between now and May, and we need to make the most of the early momentum.

    Keeping that going in a cup competition is one way of doing this. That doesn’t mean to say that we will go into Tuesday underestimating Southend. We’ve had our fare share of cup upsets in recent years, and will be considered a sizeable scalp for the League One side to take if given the chance.

    Results are the name of the game now that the season is in full swing, and whilst points aren’t on offer this evening a good performance and a place in the second round of the League Cup will keep the spirits high in the Albion camp heading into the first away game of the season at Fulham on Saturday.
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