• Championship Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton and Hove Albion;Saturday 19th September 2015

    Having sealed a fourth win in a row at the Amex against Rotherham on Tuesday night, Albion are back on the road this weekend as they travel to face a Wolves side who’ve yet to get into their stride this season.

    The Seagulls led at half time after Tomer Hemed put away his fifth goal of the campaign from close range, with Dale Stephens adding a second after the break with a sweet strike from outside the box, before the Millers grabbed a consolation goal.

    Chris Hughton’s side now sit five points clear of second placed Middlesbrough in the table, and the unthinkable start to the season continues to roll on. The fact that Albion didn’t show complacency against a bottom of the league Rotherham was pleasing, because at this level we all know how small the margins between winning and losing are.

    That margin is something that you can already use to compare and contrast how our fortunes have differed from a year ago. Another stark contrast is the points tally. It took us 22 games under Sami Hyypia to achieve the same number of points as we have in seven games under Hughton this season.

    Ironically that 19th point was picked up in our last visit to Molineux in December, as we drew 1-1 in a game where we probably made a case for picking up all three – a scenario that was played out countless times throughout the campaign. It would also be the last point of Hyypia’s tenure, with the Finn handing in his resignation in the days following the game.

    Midfield partnership of Stephens and Beram Kayal received lot of praise so far this season (Image: Paul Hazlewood)

    The host proved to be a tough test on that occasion, and they certainly won’t be pushovers when Albion make their way to the West Midlands to take on the former Premier League side tomorrow afternoon.

    Kenny Jackett’s side missed out on a place in the play-offs on goal difference last year, and will be hoping to go one better this time around. So far it’s been a slow start to the campaign for Wolves with two wins from their opening six games. However having not played in midweek, they will have a game in hand to try and narrow the gap between them and the top half of the table in a few weeks against Fuham.

    The home side’s main threat will come from former Arsenal youth product Benik Afobe. The 22-year old scored 13 goals after signing for Wolves in January, and has three to his name in all competitions so far this campaign. With Adam Le Fondre alongside him, they have a front pairing who know where the back of the net is, and it’s only a matter of time before both are firing on all cylinders.

    Going into the game Hughton will face a small selection dilemma after some of the performances put in on Tuesday night. Kazenaga LuaLua is likely to go straight back into the side after serving his one match suspension, however after Jamie Murphy’s performance on Tuesday Hughton will be hard pushed to drop the former Sheffield United winger, with Solly March the more likely to make way for August’s Championship Player of the Month.

    With Wolves being the home side, they are naturally at lower odds to win the game than top of the table Albion. A victory for them is priced in the region of 11/8 and 13/10, with an away win for the Seagulls at odds of around 2/1. A draw is priced just slightly longer at around 12/5 and 9/4. For a full comparison of betting odds by bookmaker, go to oddschecker.com.

    Murphy could keep place in starting XI after performance against Millers (Image: Paul Hazlewood)

    There’s only so many times you can talk about the start to the season Albion have had without repeating yourself, but so far the momentum has continued to build from game to game. After all that fans had to suffer through last season, it’s great for all to be able to go to the Amex and expect to see a battling performance that gives us a chance of winning games.

    We’ve had little trouble with that form on the road either, though the 100% home record would suggest that the Amex may finally become something of a fortress for us. However everyone knows that results are far from a foregone conclusion at this level.

    Both the players and manager know that the season is still in its infancy, and that they can’t get carried away after seven league games. A real test of Albion’s ability to contend will come when they hit a rough patch, which knowing our poor record in October could come sooner rather than later. Our ability to bounce back from that will show whether we have the staying power at the top end of the table.

    For now though it’s a case of stepping up to the next challenge. Like a number of sides, Wolves will more than likely be there or there about by the end of the campaign, but have yet to hit top gear. In Afobe and Le Fondre they have players who know where the goal is, and when they click will perform well for them. Albion will certainly be hoping that tomorrow afternoon isn’t that day.
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