Seagulls fly in as Clarets chase the points
It doesn’t seem two minutes since we were setting off for Chelsea but we are well and truly coming towards the end of the season now with only two games remaining after tomorrow’s visit of Brighton & Hove Albion.
The maths are simple now. We cannot finish any higher than sixth nor can we finish below ninth. I’d suggest our chances of overhauling Arsenal and moving up to sixth are quite remote and therefore it should be similar for either Everton or Leicester to catch us.
Put simply, Everton, who are currently eighth, can reach a final total of 54 points whilst Leicester who can go two points higher and get to 56 points. That’s if they win all their remaining games and so the worst case scenario is that we need a further four points to ensure a seventh place finish and a place in the 2nd qualifying round of the Europa League.
There are no guarantees. The fat lady isn’t on stage yet, let alone singing, but she’s certainly clearing her throat as club, players and fans push hard for something we really couldn’t have ever thought was a reality on that hot day at Stamford Bridge when we were 3-0 up at half time.
“We’re all going on a European tour,” has been the song in the stands for the last few games and it’s certainly been the talking point on our away trips as we looked at all the possibilities. It would be more than a shame now to miss out on the chance and the first opportunity to get the one win that is really needed comes tomorrow when Brighton visit Burnley for the first ever time for a top flight game.
We are definitely due a win against them. The last time was in the 2011/12 season when a Charlie Austin goal gave us a 1-0 Turf Moor win to add to the victory by the same score on our first ever visit to the Amex, a game Ashley Barnes won’t wish to remember with too much affection.
He was the second Brighton player sent off in that first game whilst at Turf Moor he came on as a substitute on the hour, replacing Sam Vokes who was there on loan at the time. Both are part of our squad now, as is Chris Wood who has also spent time on loan at Brighton and ours has such a good mentality that every player refers to it.
Ashley Westwood has been in the side for every game since the home victory against Everton and he admitted: “The closeness of the squad is how we have got to where we are now and the togetherness has really drawn up something special. The team spirit is incredible. Every time someone comes into the group, they just adapt to it.”
On the pitch, he said: “We are working hard as a group to try and get as many points as we can and take it forward into next season. if we get into Europe, we want to take the challenge and hopefully prove people wrong.
“We are not getting carried away because we are not over the line yet. We are just enjoying the run at the minute and hopefully long may that continue.”
Westwood will definitely play tomorrow but there will be no additional players to bring in with Ben Mee and Scott Arfield again ruled out. Mee has already missed the last four games but for Arfield it will be a ninth successive game he’s missed with his calf injury.
There shouldn’t be any changes although Georges-Kévin NKoudou is fit to return after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. I expect the team to be: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes. Subs from: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Charlie Taylor, Dean Marney, Jeff Hendrick, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Jon Walters, Sam Vokes.
Brighton, having missed out on promotion in 2015/16 when Middlesbrough were runners-up, made no mistake last season to win promotion to the top flight for the first time since 1983. They’ve done well too and are virtually safe in a season when it is looking very likely that all three promoted teams will stay up. That hasn’t happened since 2012 when all of QPR, Norwich and Swansea avoided the drop one year after they’d gone up.
They’ve not been in the drop zone all season and the lowest they reached was 16th after a 4-0 home defeat against Chelsea in mid-January. and they come into this game in 13th place with 38 points. They have won just twice on the road, at West Ham and Swansea, but they’ve also secured points from draws at Watford, Newcastle, Southampton and Stoke.
Most of their goals have come at home but they do have a threat up front with the experienced Glenn Murray who has scored twelve times while Pascal Groß has netted six Premier League goals.
Chris Hughton’s only injured players are Steve Sidwell and Jiri Skalak while Davy Propper will serve the final game of a suspension following his red card against in the home draw against Huddersfield at the beginning of April.
The Brighton squad does include former Burnley loan player Shane Duffy and midfielder Dale Stephens (pictured) who Burnley pursued as a potential signing ahead of the 2016/17 season. Both are expected to play tomorrow.
Their last game was a 1-1 home draw against Spurs when they lined up: Mat Ryan, Bruno Saltor, Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy, Gaëtan Bong, Anthony Knockaert, Beram Kayal, Dale Stephens, José Izquierdo, Pascal Groß, Glenn Murray. Subs: Tim Krul, Ezequiel Schelotto, Connor Goldson, Sam Baldock, Jürgen Locadia, Solly March, Leonardo Ulloa.
Tomorrow will see a last Turf Moor appearance for BBC commentator John Motson who will be covering the game for Match of the Day.
LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE
Brighton arrived at Burnley in November 2015 still unbeaten in the Championship. They had 34 points, one behind league leaders Hull but with a game in hand. We were fifth but had only two points less.
As so many games have done between us in recent years, it ended in a draw with the goalscoring all done and dusted within the first four minutes of the game with Bobby Zamora giving Brighton the lead and Andre Gray equalising from the penalty spot.
Sam Vokes had suffered an injury in the last game, a 0-0 draw at former club Wolves, so he missed this game against another of his previous clubs. Rouwen Hennings came in which meant a place on the bench for Chris Long, and with Kevin Long having moved to Barnsley on loan, there was a welcome return to the first team squad for Dean Marney for the first time since suffering his cruciate ligament injury against West Brom in the previous season.
Almost immediately we won a corner and when it came over, Michael Keane’s shirt all but disappeared as Lewis Dunk grabbed it. Referee Simon Hooper didn’t hesitate. He pointed to the spot and Gray converted.
There were no further goals in the first half but David Stockdale was forced into one brilliant save to deny Hennings his first Burnley goal. The German did OK in the first half but faded early in the second half which saw him come off just after the hour. It proved to be his last league start for us.
All in all, a draw, on this occasion, was about the right result.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Rouwen Hennings (Chris Long61), Andre Gray. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Matt Lowton, Stephen Ward, Dean Marney, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly.
Brighton: David Stockdale, Bruno Saltor, Gordon Greer, Lewis Dunk, Liam Rosenior, Solly March, Dale Stephens, Beram Kayal, Jamie Murphy, Bobby Zamora (Jake Forster-Caskey 65), Tomer Hemed (Elvis Manu 82). Subs not used: Niki Maenpaa, Connor Goldson, Danny Holla, Adam Chicksen, Daniel Akindayini.Share this page :