Surpassing Expectations Can Continue At Brighton

It has been a fantastic season for Brighton this season. The brand new AMEX stadium is full week in week out and the team are performing superbly under Gus Poyet. At the beginning of the season, the target for the Seagulls was a mid table. They have exceeded all expectations and look set to finish in the play-off places.

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing to Brighton’s current position. After a stunning start and even a period of being top of the table, the Seagulls slumped. Arch rivals Crystal Palace were in town with former Albion striker Glenn Murray on their team sheet. Record signing Craig Mackail-Smith put Brighton in front before 2 goals in 10 minutes gave Palace the lead. Then Judas (Murray) slotted in a 3rd. It was the first league defeat at the AMEX and a second league defeat after the first loss of the season away to Leicester the week before. The poor run would continue for a further 7 matches. Brighton, having been 3rd had slumped to 12th before they grabbed a scrappy 2-0 win over Barnsley.

The next game was a tough looking tie away to league leaders Southampton. The two south coasts’ clubs had developed a bit of a rivalry due to both teams coming up from League One last season and Saints manager Nigel Adkins quoting that Brighton would have to “keep up” with his side if both sides were to be competing for the title, which Brighton won with ease.

Poor refereeing handed the 3 points to Southampton and Brighton went down to 13th before 3 wins in a row lifted them up back into the play-off places. December started with a last minute victory over Nottingham Forest but ended terribly. Major injury problems lead to 4 defeats in a row without scoring and the Seagulls fell from a play-off position to 16th in the table.

The New Year came about with a visit from Southampton who had maintained their top spot. Brighton, still with massive injury problems throughout the side seemed destined to lose. But teen sensation Jake Forster-Caskey opened the scoring after Saints striker and pie lover Rickie Lambert was sent off for slapping Adam El-Abd. And then Matt Sparrow scored two stunners to give Brighton a hugely unexpected 3 points.

The win over Southampton became the start of a 12 match unbeaten league run. With the addition of an FA Cup run which saw a close victory over Wrexham and a 1-0 win over Newcastle which set up a dream tie away to Liverpool. 6000 Brighton fans turned the away end of Anfield into a sea of blue and white but where outclassed and were well beaten 6-1 (although 3 of Liverpool’s goals were scored by an Albion player).

The first league defeat of 2012 came at the hands of play-off hopefuls Blackpool who inflicted a 3-1 defeat. But a bounce-back 2-0 win over Derby lifted the Seagulls into 4th place, their highest position since September.

A draw against Middlesbrough has seen the team drop down to 6th but Brighton are under no pressure. No one expected the team to do so well and the performances have lead to plans for an additional 8,000 seats to be put forward early. The belief is strong that Brighton & Hove Albion will be in the Premier League sooner rather than later and a 30,000+ capacity stadium will help pave the way there.

Several teams below 6th spot still have the belief that they can sneak into the play-off spot and Brighton’s next few fixtures will be tough. They face a Burnley side that have just put 5 goals past Portsmouth. They then welcome Reading to the AMEX who have stormed into 2nd place and beat West Ham 4-2 at Upton Park, where the Seagulls then travel to before taking on mid table Watford and then play-off contenders Birmingham before finally travelling to Barnsley for the last game of the season.