Unbeaten in opening four games but last season’s troubles not gone yet
21 August ~ In August, the league table is a blank slate and the trials of last season are forgotten, or at least considered past. Brighton have started well despite their last campaign being dreadful by any standards. In 2014-15 they finished fifth from bottom in the Championship (and Rotherham were only below them due to a points deduction) and managed only six points from the eight games against the four bottom clubs.
Defence was not a problem but their strikers collectively misfired all season. Their last win came against today’s opponents, Blackburn, in March, and that was with an own goal — Brighton’s whole team scored once, and picked up two points, in the remaining seven games. In short they were lucky to stay up.
In response, there has been substantial player recruitment over the last few weeks, which is ongoing: in the last few days winger Jamie Murphy was signed from Sheffield United and defender Connor Goldson from Shrewsbury. Bobby Zamora, whose goals were the driving force in two consecutive divisional championships in 2001 and 2002, has returned on a one-year deal.
Three wins in the first three games (one the League Cup) suggest a team immediately gelling, but the devil is in the detail. Each was by one goal and two were winners in injury time – a good sign of commitment and fitness, yes, but the results could easily have been different.
The 1-1 draw at Huddersfield on Tuesday night was more representative of how things currently stand at the Albion. Beram Kayal’s shot gave them the lead after only 17 seconds, before any home player had touched the ball, but in the second half the team were on the back foot and Huddersfield deserved the point they secured with a brilliant equaliser.
All over the pitch there was plenty of good passing but not much penetration – a neutral friend who came to the game described both teams as “less good versions of Arsenal”. Murphy came on in the last ten minutes and gave Brighton more options on the left wing, but Zamora has not even featured on the bench yet, due to “lack of match fitness”. Was his return a sentimental piece of recruitment with an eye on season ticket sales? Or a nifty piece of squad reinforcement?
Blackburn continue to labour under their dubious ownership and Financial Fair Play regulations, and have not started well — then again no team have really stamped any early authority over the Championship. Being third, as Brighton are, at this stage probably doesn’t mean anything — but starting with four unbeaten games cannot really be complained about. If the run continues today and into September — then the horrors of 2014-15 really will be forgotten. Drew Whitworth