A win at the Amex – that’ll do nicely
“That’ll do nicely” – it was a slogan used by American Express on their television advertising some years ago and it would certainly do very nicely if we could replicate our first visit there and come away with all three points as we did then.
That was the infamous game when we played 78 minutes against nine men but they are not the only victims in this fixture; on our last visit Tom Heaton was wrongly and ridiculously red carded by referee Darren Sheldrake.
That was early in the 2013/14 season when Brighton were one of the favourites for promotion and we were still considered relegation candidates, but now, with just eight games remaining, both are us are pushing for one of the two automatic promotion places.
As it stands, we sit four points ahead of them with both of us keeping an anxious eye on Middlesbrough who play tonight. They have one point less than Brighton but do have a game in hand. It really does look now as though the top two places are going to go to two of those three clubs.
Last time out, a late goal cost us against Wolves, the draw bringing an end to a run of six successive wins. Left back Stephen Ward was playing against his former club that day and tomorrow he’ll line up against the team he spent a season long loan with in 2013/14 and came close to joining permanently before Burnley came in with a late bid in August 2014.
He’s been on international duty with the Republic of Ireland and has returned ready for this game. He said: “We’re in a good position and we’ve given ourselves a good platform up to now and the international break gave the lads time to get a bit of freshness in the legs and we’re raring to go. It’s a massive game on Saturday and it’s nice to come back when your club is flying.”
He added: “There are seven games after the weekend so there are plenty of points to play for. I don’t think one game is going to change the outcome of the season but it is important.
“I think you’ll see it across the board here that nobody will be getting carried away. It’s the next game we focus on. It’s first against second from the outside but for us, although it is a massive game, we’re very good at keeping things grounded.”
Ward will be in the side having returned from international duty fit, but there is one doubt from the returning players with Scott Arfield reporting back with a back problem. Sean Dyche says he’s touch and go but I suspect he’ll be fit. If not, then we have such as Michael Kightly, Matt Taylor or Lloyd Dyer who could step in.
Rouwen Hennings, who started the home game against Brighton in the absence of Sam Vokes, is a doubt with an achilles problem but there is some big positive news with Ashley Barnes travelling with the squad and he could be on the bench against his old club. If so, it will be the first time he’s been involved since suffering the anterior cruciate ligament injury at Aston Villa on the last day of last season.
Our team, if Arfield is fit, should be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Dean Marney, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly, Rouwen Hennings, Ashley Barnes.
Things have certainly improved at Brighton since Chris Hughton took charge. Having reached the play-offs in 2014, they were having a difficult time of it last season. Hughton came in to replace Sami Hyypia on New Year’s Eve. They were in the bottom four but he did enough to keep them out of the bottom three, they were fourth from bottom but six points clear, and he’s moved them on this season to such an extent that they’ve never been out of the top six.
They’ve been beaten only five times, the same number as us. The first defeat didn’t come until the week before Christmas when they were beaten 3-0 at home by Middlesbrough. There were suggestions that they would fall down the table soon after. They drew the next game at Brentford and then suffered three successive defeats at home against Ipswich and Wolves and then at Blackburn.
The Blackburn defeat was on 12th January, the night we were banging in five at Milton Keynes, but they’ve lost only once since, the blip coming with a big 4-1 loss at Cardiff in February.
They go into tomorrow’s game on a run of six without defeat, four wins and two draws, with the last two games won at home to Reading and then, two weeks ago, at MK when they survived a stoppage time penalty to win the points.
Tomer Hemed and Jamie Murphy are the players to watch. Hemed has scored 13 league goals this season with Murphy adding six. Bobby Zamora, who has scored seven and got their goal at Burnley, is ruled out with injury but is the only player unavailable to Hughton.
In that last game at MK they lined up: David Stockdale, Bruno Saltor, Lewis Dunk, Connor Goldson, Liam Rosenior, Jamie Murphy, Dale Stephens, Beram Kayal, Jiri Skalak, Sam Baldock, James Wilson. Subs: Niki Maenpaa, Gordon Greer, Gaetan Bong, Anthony Knockaert, Steven Sidwell, Tomer Hemed, Kazenga LuaLua.
LAST TIME WE WERE THERE
It was back in August 2013. We’d drawn our opening game and then won twice before heading to Brighton who had beaten Birmingham away but had lost their two other games.
The first half hour of this game was fairly non-eventful, but we’d looked the more likely side. Poor Kevin Long it was who cost us once and nearly twice. His poor back pass allowed Brighton through to take the lead and soon after an equally poor header could have cost us a second but in the end left Tom Heaton with a yellow card from referee Darren Sheldrake.
That some referees might have viewed it as a red is irrelevant, the referee said it wasn’t a goalscoring opportunity and thus, rightly, showed yellow.
When he showed him a second yellow it was just downright ridiculous and wrong. Having caught the ball he was pulled back by Will Buckley as he tried to get the ball away. Then Buckley impeded him again as he tried to throw the ball and Sheldrake blew. Buckley expected a yellow but instead he showed it to Heaton and he had to go.
We’d started the second half well but Brighton knew just how to play against ten men. Alex Cisak came on with Keith Treacy sacrificed and was beaten once. There was to be no comeback from Burnley and the game ended at 2-0.
The talking point once again at the Amex had been the referee. We can’t predict what the score would have been had Heaton stayed on but once he’d gone the game was over for us.
Let’s hope Brighton’s left back that day is on the winning side again tomorrow.
The teams were;
Brighton: Tomasz Kuszczak, Inigo Calderon, Gordon Greer, Matthew Upson, Stephen Ward, David Lopez (Kazenga Lua Lua 66), Rohan Ince, Andrew Crofts, Will Buckley (Solly March 90+2), Kemy Agustien (Jake Forster-Caskey 74), Leo Ulloa. Subs not used: Peter Brezovan, Adam El-Abd, Adam Chicksen, Vitalijs Maksimenko.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Kevin Long, Jason Shackell, Danny Lafferty, Keith Treacy (Alex Cisak 59), Dean Marney, David Jones (David Edgar 79), Scott Arfield, Danny Ings (Junior Stanislas 74), Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Michael Duff, Ben Mee, Brian Stock, Ryan Noble.Share this page :