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Had this been normal world I’d have already departed for what is the longest trip of the season down to the Amex Stadium and a game against Brighton & Hove Albion.

It’s 48 years ago this month since I first saw this fixture played away from home. We won 1-0 that day with a Martin Dobson goal. That was at the Goldstone Ground and I also saw us beat them 1-0 at the hideous Withdean Stadium (2004/05, goalscorer Robbie Blake) and then on our first ever visit to the Amex Stadium (2011/12, goalscorer Kieran Trippier).

That most recent 1-0 win against them was after they’d been reduced to nine men in the opening twelve minutes with referee Craig Pawson sending off Romain Vincelot and then Ashley Barnes. We have, however, won there against eleven men, that came two seasons ago when two goals from Chris Wood followed by a penalty scored by the aforementioned Barnes gave us a 3-1 win.

We’ve been unbeaten on our last four visits to the stadium and there have been some controversial incidents, aside from those two red cards. In 2013/14 season Tom Heaton was farcically sent off and two seasons later there was that incredible decision not to award Michael Keane a late leveller when the ball was so far over the line it could be seen on Brighton pier.

We don’t need or want any controversy today. What we need more than anything is a win. We go into the game in the worst possible position in the Premier League; we are bottom. Given that ours is the first game this weekend, we know a draw would take us above Sheffield United whilst victory would also see us ahead of West Brom. It would take a very unlikely three goal win to see us move out of the bottom three.

Is it a case of us conceding too many goals or not scoring enough? It’s both in fairness although our goals against column is better than that at six other clubs and that includes Liverpool who have conceded three more goals than us, albeit almost half of them came in their incredible 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa.

Even so, we’ve conceded twelve in six games. That’s two per game and includes four at Leicester, three at Newcastle and a further three last week at home against Chelsea. There has been just one clean sheet and that against a woeful West Brom.

But he goals for column is a worry. We scored twice at Leicester in our opening game; Chris Wood actually gave us the lead while Jimmy Dunne scored on his Premier League debut in what ended as a 4-2 defeat. We actually played quite well in that game. The sorry story though is one goal since in five games, that scored by Ashley Westwood at Newcastle.

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While supporters hit the panic button, some even suggesting we have reached the point of having must win games, the players must remain much more level headed about the situation. Ahead of the game, Matt Lowton said: “It’s always nice to get the first win on the board in the season. We’re relaxed. We’re not panicking, but we want to get it sooner rather than later so we can build on that and take momentum into the following games and try and put a run together.”

Lowton added: “It’s going to be a tough game. They are a good side which likes to move the ball quickly through the lines. It’s up to us to try and negate that.”

Lowton is the latest to have played at right back for us. He suffered an injury in the League Cup defeat against Manchester City and that allowed Phil Bardsley to establish himself in the team. That was until Bardsley tested positive for COVID-19. With Lowton still injured, Erik Pieters stepped in but then suffered an injury himself; Lowton’s return to fitness coming at just the right time.

Pieters is still ruled out tonight although Bardsley is back with us. However, I expect Lowton to continue in the team. The other good news is a return to fitness for Ben Mee. I suspect he won’t start at the Amex but maybe the skipper’s presence on the bench will give us a boost. There is also a chance that the injury plagued Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson could be fit, he was described as touch and go by Sean Dyche.

I don’t think there will be much in the way of change and we could even go with the same team that was beaten by Chelsea. If that’s the case, we would line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dale Stephens, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood.

If that is the team it will mean a quick return to Brighton for Dale Stephens who joined us in the most recent transfer window. We might also see a much more experienced bench tonight. Should the team be as above, the subs would be from: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Jimmy Dunne, Ben Mee, Josh Benson, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady, Jay Rodriguez, Matěj Vydra.

Brighton haven’t had the best of starts either and a win tonight would take us within a point of them. They currently have five points with four of them having come away from home. They won 3-0 at Newcastle and drew at Crystal Palace but at home they followed up defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United with a 1-1 draw against West Brom.

They have certainly found goalscoring easier than us although Neal Maupay, with four, is the only player to have scored more than once. He scored two early goals in the win at Newcastle, one of them from the penalty spot. He added a penalty in the home defeat against Manchester United while also scoring in their 4-2 loss at Everton.

They are currently sixteenth in the early season table which is one place lower than their finishing position last season. Having gone into Project Restart very much in a relegation battle, they got a couple of quick wins and that saw them finish seven points clear of both Bournemouth and Watford who were relegated.

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Goalkeeper Mat Ryan and Aaron Connolly (pictured) are back in contention today as is Maupay who was left out last week after a dressing room incident. Solly March and Alireza Jahanbakhsh should also be fit along with Tariq Lamptey but they will be without Lewis Dunk who completes a three match ban.

The Brighton team last week in the 2-1 defeat at Spurs was: Robert Sánchez, Adam Webster, Joël Veltman, Dan Burn, Tariq Lamptey, Pascal Groß, Ben White, Yves Bissouma, Solly March, Adam Lallana, Leandro Trossard. Subs: Mat Ryan, Alexis Mac Allister, Steven Alzate, Danny Welbeck, Davy Pröpper, Andi Zeqiri, Bernardo.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Our last visit to Brighton was back in September last year and our third away game of the season. We’d dropped into the bottom half of the table a week earlier after a 3-0 home defeat against Liverpool but were looking for another performance similar to the one in the previous away game when we’d been so unfortunate to come away from Wolves with only one point.

We started so well and by midway in the first half were by far the better of the two sides with Brighton hardly having had a look in. But we didn’t get the goal our play deserved and that’s always telling. By half time Brighton had come more into things and probably deserved, just about, to go in level against us.

The second half was a different story altogether. We allowed them to take command and they did get a goal, just six minutes in when Neal Maupay scored. We made some changes, we did come more into it but as the clock reached ninety minutes there was no obvious sign of an equaliser.

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The first minute of stoppage time proved vital. Ashley Westwood found Jeff Hendrick with a pass. Hendrick, in the centre circle, played a ball out wide to Dwight McNeil. He moved forward, played in a ball for Matěj Vydra who flicked it on for the oncoming Hendrick who hit a first time shot into the bottom corner to win us a point with yet another goal of the season contender from the Irishman.

A draw it was as Burnley kicked off a four game unbeaten run.

The teams were;

Brighton: Mat Ryan, Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster, Solly March (Gaëtan Bong 90), Dale Stephens, Davy Pröpper, Dan Burn, Pascal Groß, Glenn Murray (Aaron Mooy 80), Neal Maupay (Aaron Connolly 84). Subs not used: David Button, Yves Bissouma, Tudor Baluta, Steven Alzate.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon (Jeff Hendrick 59), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork (Matěj Vydra 78), Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood (Jay Rodriguez 66). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Ben Gibson, Robbie Brady.

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