Football

September spell could shape Seagulls' season

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After watching the likes of Leicester City and Norwich City romp to the Npower League One title, last season was expected to be as tight race for promotion as ever.

Leeds United had gone up along with Norwich, leaving two just four sides formerly of Premier League fame in the division in Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton and Swindon Town.

Saints were the bookies favourites going into the campaign and with Ricky Lambert and Adam Lallana to call upon many felt Alan Pardew's side were safe money as the season began. Behind them, it was anyone's guess.

One man who had failed to read the pre-season predictions was Gus Poyet, who had his own plans upset the apple cart.

Poyet got his Brighton and Hove Albion playing an effective brand of passing football, which left the remainder of League One in a spin.

Despite ratifying promotion in April, in truth their passage to the Championship could have been confirmed anytime after they first topped the league in September.

Now in the Championship, Poyet has stuck to his principals and with five league wins from six games, including a Carling Cup win over Sunderland, the Uruguayan appears to have found a winning formula.

The loss of Glenn Murray and Elliott Bennett, two of the leading lights from their promotion winning side, on the face of it were unrecoverable losses for the Seagulls.

The signing of Craig Mackail-Smith may have grabbed the headlines, not least because of the £2.5 million Poyet shelled out on the Peterborough United man, but it's the other business that has also impressed.

You could argue that plucking Mackail-Smith, now a Scottish international, from the top of League One scoring charts wasn't exactly a tough ask for the boss, but signing the likes of Ryan Harley and promoting Lewis Dunk, who made just eight appearances last season, appears inspired.

Despite the current league standings representing nothing more than a glorified form table, there's little point trying to deconstruct Brighton's start, but instead look to the tests that lie ahead, a period that will scrutinise the resolve of Poyet's men.

 

This weekend they travel to free-spending Leicester City, whose season is in dire need of a kick start after taking eighth points from their first six games.

The pressure is seemingly swelling on Sven Goran Eriksson, and despite victory over Southampton, last weekends draw with Barnsley is a sign things are not all well at the King Power Stadium.

Nevertheless, The Foxes, who with some bookmakers were the pre-season title favourites, are on paper as big a threat as any.

In mid-week Brighton host their most prestigious fixture at their newly opened Amex Stadium, when they welcome Liverpool in the Carling Cup, where The Reds expect to call upon club captain Steven Gerrard for the first time since March.

Chances are, with a gruelling league schedule to negotiate, Poyet may not treat the tie with a great deal of seriousness, however, after making just two changes when Sunderland came to town last month, he may be tempted to have a go at the Premier League giants.

Furthermore, too often managers have neglected cup competitions, and suffered defeats that cripple team confidence and break momentum. For a team that stayed top for seven months of the season, Poyet understands the significance of keeping morale high.

Following that, the club then host Leeds United, arguably one of the biggest clubs in the division, on Friday evening.

Not that anyone is discussing the genuine possibility of Brighton sustaining their current form for the remainder of the season, Poyet knows well enough from last season that once on top his side are difficult to budge.

Yet again, this season in the Championship the league was expected to be tightly contested, with a miriad of teams in with a good chance of reaching the Premier League.

Brighton have recent experience of dominating a division not only from start to finish, but also when they're not expected to take the lead however, the next seven says could dictate how their season eventually pans out.

Topics:
Football
Championship
Brighton & Hove Albion
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