• Championship Preview: Ipswich Town v Brighton and Hove Albion; Saturday 29th August

    After suffering their first defeat of the season in the Capital One Cup at Walsall in midweek, Albion will be hoping to end August on a high when they travel to Portman Road to face Ipswich in a top of the table clash tomorrow afternoon.

    Jake Forster-Caskey’s 39th minute spot kick handed Albion the lead going into half time at the Bescot Stadium after being brought down in the penalty area, however they were pegged back by the home side just after the hour mark.

    The Seagulls were handed a second chance to score from 12 yards out five minutes after conceding, as Chris O’Grady was adjudged to have been fouled in the box, with the former Barnsley striker stepping up to take the spot kick. Despite having shown to be a decent finisher of the ball in the past for Albion, O’Grady completely fluffed the chance, sending the ball high into the stands with an effort to rival Jonathan Obika’s infamous overhead kick against Wigan two seasons ago.

    The Saddlers went on to score a second goal with four minutes remaining, avoiding the need for extra time and securing themselves a home game against cup holders Chelsea in the next round of the competition. Whilst blame for defeat can’t be solely laid at the feet of O’Grady, as a striker you would expect him to at least get the ball on target from that distance.

    Albion’s exit from the competition also marks the end of their unbeaten start to the season. However Chris Hughton’s side have still yet to lose a league game in the opening month of the Championship season, and with the first international period of the season coming up, they will be hoping to go into that two-week break on a positive note as they face their toughest test in the league so far in the form of the Tractor Boys.

    Hughton looking for his side to end August unbeaten in the Championship (Image: Paul Hazlewood)

    Mick McCarthy’s men are the only side to have kept up with Brighton in the opening four games of the season, with the sides having scored ten points each; however the former UEFA Cup winners superior goal difference puts them top of the pile and this early stage of the season.

    When Ipswich’s Goal Difference statistics of eight scored, four conceded are compared with Albion’s – five and two – it highlights how once again we are placing an importance on a strong defensive unit at the back. They will need to be at their best against the Blues.

    However the Seagulls defence won’t have to deal with keeping the Tractor Boy’s top scorer from last season, Daryl Murphy at bay. The Irishman has been out for over a week with a calf injury, and his return isn’t likely to come until after the international break. They will therefore be relying on the likes of Freddie Sears, David McGoldrick and on-loan Ryan Fraser to cause problems for the Seagulls.

    One man who could make an appearance at Portman Road is Bobby Zamora. The Albion legend’s first appearance since his return to the club was announced three weeks ago, but his comeback has been fraught with setbacks. Initially it was a case of simply needing to gain match fitness, however the 34-year old was unable to feature for the Under-21 side against Swansea last Monday after picking a slight groin problem. After Tuesday’s game, Hughton indicated that the former Spurs and West Ham forward would be in contention for a place in the squad – likely to be taking up O’Grady’s slot on the bench – depending on he performs in a training game this week.

    Other than a possible return for Bobby, Albion are likely to revert to their regular league matchday line-up after a number of fringe players got a chance to start up at the Bescot Stadium in midweek. With four first-team centre backs now in the side, Hughton will face a tough choice as to whether Connor Goldson – who was cup tied in midweek – gets his first appearance for the club either from the bench or in the starting line-up.

    Zamora could make his comeback for Albion tomorrow afternoon (Image: Paul Hazlewood)

    Whilst both sides have had a fairly similar start to the season, unsurprisingly with Ipswich playing at home tomorrow afternoon, they go into the game as the bookies favourites in the region of 6/5 and 11/10, with a victory for Albion or a draw priced roughly the same at around 13/5 and 12/5 respectively. For a full comparison on odds by bookmaker, go to oddschecker.com.

    It’ been an impressive start to the season for Hughton and his men, however despite being unbeaten in their first four league games, it’s hard to judge at the moment if second in the table is a false position in terms of raising supporters expectations for the season. Granted the Championship is a tough league, but on the most part the team’s Albion have seen off in the opening month are all likely to be mid-table or lower contenders, and some of those wins were by narrow margins.

    The Tractor Boys pose the first real test of the campaign in terms of being established top of the division promotion contenders. Having lost in the play-off semi-finals to bitter rivals Norwich last season, Ipswich will be keen to avoid having to go through that lottery again, and under the guidance of McCarthy they have every chance of getting automatic promotion.

    Tomorrow's trip to Portman Road will be allow Seagulls fans to gauge where their side stands against those they would realistically be competing for a place in the top six with. The likelihood is that more transfer business is still to be done by Albion before next Tuesday, but with the core squad now in place, it would be fair to be able to make some sort of judgement after Saturday’s result.
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