• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Blackburn Rovers; Saturday 22nd August

    After going four games unbeaten with a midweek draw against Huddersfield, Albion will be hoping to continue their impressive start to the season when they welcome Blackburn to the Amex tomorrow afternoon.

    The Seagulls got off the mark quickly at the John Smiths Stadium on Tuesday evening, as Beram Kayal found the back of the net with a sweet strike from outside the box 17 seconds after the game got underway. Chris Hughton’s side held that lead going into the break; however just over ten minutes after the restart Jacob Butterfield made the Home side’s pressure on the Albion defence pay as he fired the ball home from an acute angle to level the scores.

    Whilst they will be disappointed to have not held on to their 100 percent start to the season after the way they began the game, everyone at the club would have taken seven points from the opening three games had you told them that would be the case at the end of last season.

    What Hughton will want to see on the side’s return to the Amex this weekend is the consistency in performance they showed in their first game of the season against Forest. Albion were able to dominate the game through the majority of the 90 minutes, and kept up a tempo that allowed them to dictate play and prevent Forest, for the most part, from getting a look-in.

    It’s plausible that simply isn’t as easy to replicate on the road, however fans will be hoping to get a glimpse of that consistency once more against tomorrow’s opponents, along with three players who could all be making their first appearances on home soil this season.

    Jamie Murphy came off the bench for his debut in West Yorkshire midweek, and is likely to play a similar role today, with Uwe Hunemeir also set to make his bow at the Amex against Rovers. Albion may also have another debutant feature tomorrow, with the club having announced their tenth signing of the summer on Wednesday evening.

    Kayal's 17-second goal at Huddersfield is the fourth fastest in Albion history. Image by Paul Hazlewood

    Centre back Connor Goldson arrived from League One Shrewsbury for an undisclosed fee – believed to be a six-figure sum - with the 22-year old having penned a four-year deal to move to the Amex. The Shrews youth product was named in the PFA League Two team of the year last season as he helped propel his side to promotion as runners-up of the division, along with scoring seven league goals during the campaign

    Having turned down a chance to join Swansea’s Under-21 setup last summer to stick with playing first team football and help the Shrews regain their place in League One after relegation, the Yorkshire-born defender has shown his willingness to be committed when the going gets tough. His first task will now be to break into the starting line-up and show that he can step up to the mark at Championship level.

    The arrival of a second centre half in as many weeks once again throws Lewis Dunk’s future at the club into question. With Glen Rea rumoured to be going out on-loan in the near future, it would leave the club four first team quality players who could play in the middle of defence. Fulham’s latest bid of £5m was rejected, but you get the feeling that the clubs are waiting for their valuation to be met, or for a Premier League side to come in and make a bid for the 23-year old.

    Goldson is one of three players who could make their first appearances on home soil tomorrow, as Albion take on a Rovers side who’ve had a slow start to the season.

    Like Brighton’s last opponents at home, Nottingham Forest, the Lancashire side’s summer transfer business has been hampered by a Financial Fair Play embargo, and have therefore only been able to bring in free transfers or loans.

    The former Premier League champions have worked to cut their deficits by letting a number of first team players go, however they’ve also recouped around £10m through the sales of Tom Cairney, Josh King and Rudy Gestede. The latter formed a formidable partnership with Jordan Rhodes that saw the pair score over 40 goals combined last season. With Gestede having made the move to the top flight by joining Aston Villa, you’d expect that his old teammate will join him to the Premier League in the not too distant future.

    Leeds and QPR also showed interest in signing 22-year old Goldson this summer. Image by Paul Hazlewood

    Rhodes almost left Ewood Park for fellow Championship side Middlesbrough, who put in a bid of £13m for the 25-yeard old earlier in the window; that was rebuffed and Boro have since moved on to other targets. Seagulls fans will be pleased to hear that former Huddersfield front man is a doubt for tomorrow’s game. He picked up an ankle injury against his old club last weekend and missed their midweek draw with Cardiff, however Rovers boss Gary Bowyer is hoping to have him fit for the game.

    With Albion having no new injury worries going into the game, you would expect Hughton to field a similar starting XI to that which played in West Yorkshire midweek. However those hoping to see the eagerly anticipated return of Bobby Zamora may have to wait a little longer, with the Albion legend possibly needing a little more time to get back to match fitness. A first appearance from the 34-year old is therefore likely to come against Wallsall in the League Cup on Tuesday, or at Portman Road against Ipswich next weekend.

    Unsurprisingly given the side’s respective starts to the season, Albion go in as the bookies favorites, with some betting firms listing a home win at evens. A win for tomorrow’s visitors is at the longer range of odds, with some pricing a victory for Gary Bowyer’s men at 3/1. You can get a full comparison of each bookmaker’s prices at oddschecker.com.

    Having managed to keep the momentum going on the road, the task now for Hughton and his players to transfer that positive start back to the Amex against Rovers. The opening day performance against Forest was the most consistent they have been in their opening four games, having let matches slip from their control in the second half when away from home.

    The run of results built up under Hughton at home last season showed the importance of making that home advantage count, and they will need more of that spirit this campaign to maintain their successful start. Even if Rhodes is unable to play, Blackburn won’t make it an easy game. Albion look to have been unsuccessful in bringing Ben Marshall to the Amex this summer, and out wide him and Craig Conway will look to cause problems out wide.

    For Brighton it’s a case of sticking to what has worked for them over the past few weeks. Looking to get the ball forward at the earliest opportunity, positive passing play and keeping the pressure up on their opponents while on the ball. That tenacity has served them well so far, and they’ll be hoping it will reap similar rewards again come Saturday evening.
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