May 18, 2016
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Why Brighton are the Championship team of the season

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Five defeats and 72 goals scored, that’s the form of Champions. In the Championship, it was. Burnley won the title with the same stats while Middlesbrough went up after nine defeats and just 63 goals scored. Yet, Brighton will remain in the Championship for the 2016-17 season as their luck, and form cost them in their play-off tie against Sheffield Wednesday.

 

Over the course of a 46 game season, it’s not very often that you can claim that bad luck has cost a side promotion. Looking at the table on the final day of the season, seeing Brighton miss out on promotion by two goal difference, the bad luck case is clear to see.

Since promotion as champions of League 1 in 2011 under Gus Poyet, the south coast side proved themselves to be a solid Championship side, and in their first three seasons in the league they didn’t finish lower than 10th and were twice defeated in the play-off semi-final, but this year hurts so much more.

After finishing 20th last season following a disastrous start to the season under Sami Hyypia and a small recovery under Chris Hughton, expectations fell for the former Newcastle and Norwich manager this time around. Despite a flash new ground and a comfortable bank balance, even after a £7 million spending spree in the summer, an amount which is no longer eye-catching in the Championship, The Guardian included them amongst “relegation contenders” in their season preview, while even the most optimistic season preview prediction from the Bleacher Report went for a 13th placed finish for the men in blue and white stripes.

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With all that said, it’s fair to say that no-one saw it coming when they enjoyed a 21 game unbeaten run at the start of the season. Topping the Championship throughout the early stages of the season put them in pole position, but a mid-season wobble at the end of their unbeaten run saw them drop down the table.

So, what cost them? Bizarrely, despite being the joint top scorers in the division and not losing a game until mid-December, they did not win a game by a two-goal margin until February, when they then did so three times in one month, and then failed to do so again until late April, when they again recorded three impressive consecutive results with a 5-0 win against Fulham, 4-0 against QPR and 3-1 at Charlton. In a season with 17 draws, one goal can make the slightest difference as it would have in any of their eight 0-0 draws.

But it hasn’t just been scoring goals that has been a problem. At the other end, they conceded 42 goals, only 4 fewer than 15th placed Blackburn Rovers, and Brighton have struggled late on in games. Against Burnley, a 93rd equaliser cost them two points. Against QPR in December, an 88th-minute equaliser. Against Derby just three days earlier, another 88th-minute equaliser. Against Bolton in September, a 94th-minute equaliser. If Brighton had held their nerve for a few more minutes in just one of those games, as would be expected against the likes of QPR and Bolton, or put one chance away in just one of those 0-0s, they’d have been promoted. If they’d done it in two, they’d have been level on points with champions Burnley.

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Luck was a major factor too. Whilst blaming the fixture list is a common complaint from many managers in the modern game, Brighton did face three of the top five sides in their final five league games, resulting in a Hughton having to field a fatigued side than Sheffield Wednesday who faced just one of the top five, and could relax on the final day with their playoff position confirmed heading into the final 90 minutes of the season, whilst Brighton fought for their lives with 10 men in an attempt to steal automatic promotion away from Middlesbrough.

 

With both a first choice centre-back and central midfielder missing through suspension, after Lewis Dunk and Dale Stephens both picked up red cards in their final two league games, Sheffield Wednesday provided a difficult challenge. Whilst Wednesday’s quality was on show, Brighton lost four key players to injury, leaving them with no substitutes and ten men left on the field as Kieran Lee buried a decisive second goal to put the Owls in pole position as the two sides headed to the Amex to see who would head to Wembley.

At the Amex, Brighton started on fire. Quick, fast flowing, attacking football put them one goal ahead on the night, and looking almost certain to score again. No side had ever come back from 2-0 down from the first leg of a play-off final, but after a free-kick bounced off the post, across the line and out, and Lewis Dunk found the back of the net, the odds were increasingly in Brighton’s favour, with Sheffield Wednesday struggling to get the ball out of their own half, let alone into the danger zone. Then disaster struck for Brighton, as Ross Wallace’s cross evaded everyone and referee Roger East failed to spot Gary Hooper’s nudge in the back of Lewis Dunk.

READ  Brighton early favourites for relegation - would summer spending swing the odds in their favour?

 

With the Seagulls now needing three more goals to go through with an hour left to play, their play dipped and heads dropped as Wednesday produced a defensive masterclass to send them to Wembley with a chance of promotion to the Premier League. Few fans of either side would disagree with the claim that Brighton had the superior quality in their side, but the 7th placed side were the one who produced the tactical display to win the game by keeping their defence tight at the back for the full 90 minutes despite the early onslaught from Chris Hughton’s men.

What next for Brighton? Here is where they may have a bit more luck. Brighton have built a strong, young side, and, up to now, few players have been linked with moves away. The challenge for Brighton will be to add strength in depth to their quality squad and to return in similar form to what they have enjoyed this season. Whilst the relegation of Newcastle will provide them with a major challenge for promotion, as Chris Hughton will know only too well, with the right additions, there is no reason why the former Magpie boss can’t push them close in their efforts to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.


Featured Image – All Right Reserved by deeegaogtgjg123.

Article Categories:
Brighton and Hove Albion

Sam is a Southend United fan and student based in the South-West. He has previously worked for various publications, including FourFourTwo magazine and ITV. Sam also has an extensive knowledge of Spanish football and has previously lived and worked in Spain. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Comments to Why Brighton are the Championship team of the season

  • @malc_b25 Stephens, centre-back? Ji?í’s free kick?

    John John May 18, 2016 7:32 pm
  • Yeah 1 chance on target against Wednesday in 2 league games to Wednesday’s 4. Brighton were 2 points better off than they deserved and Wednesday with a bit of luck would have had another r points

    Anonymous May 18, 2016 11:17 pm
  • If,if,if……if my Auntie had bollocks,she’d be my Uncle.

    If the Championship was decided on self-pity,Brighton would run away with it.

    Reginald May 19, 2016 12:58 am
  • They were draw specialists, yes its admirable that they scored so many goals, poor that they also conceded so many. Of course if you had said that they managed to get the same amount of points as Boro without the financial outlay then I would be inclined to agree with this but unlucky, no every team had their bad luck stories over the season not just Brighton.

    John Walker May 19, 2016 8:09 am
  • If have to rely on luck for promotion. it ain’t going to happen. The more you practice the luckier you get!

    Pinotage May 19, 2016 8:47 am
  • I find it quite interesting all this bad luck Brighton have suffered. At the beginning of the season they were a possible bottom half team when the fixtures came out and last five matches wouldn’t have look so important at the time unless in a relegation struggle, having had an excellent season suddenly the last five matches against playoff and promotion teams is bad luck, no its the luck of the draw, fifteen points clear of Wednesday is unfair but the playoff’s are the playoff’s and we all play to the rules. Wednesday lost Forestieri at an important time to a number of very poor booking’s were even Dawson of Hull felt he should have been sent off yet Forestieri was and the subsequent three matches saw a drop in Wednesday’s fortunes at a time were they were on an unbeaten run. This made a big difference to were they finished the season who knows it could of been Wednesday looking at automatic promotion and not Brighton. So bad luck doesn’t come into it over a season you have as much good luck as bad luck and over 46 games it usually evens itself out.

    Wacko Jacko May 19, 2016 10:36 am
  • Bad luck ? – what a load of , poor discipline more like.
    Sending players out to nail Ramirez in the last game for example.
    The table simply doesn’t lie after that number of games , the best two sides went up , and if Hull hadn’t had their xmas wobble they would have been third , miles better side than Brighton.

    CB May 19, 2016 1:26 pm
    • Spend that much time diving to the floor and you’re always risking injury!

      Red May 20, 2016 12:23 am
  • You’ve already got ‘manager of the year’, for whatever reason.
    You should be happy with that, now move on!!
    It’s a bit rich that the manager, who leads his team to the title on a 23 game unbeaten run, doesn’t receive that award. Must be bad luck!!!

    peter jackson May 19, 2016 2:41 pm
  • Absolute tosh!! Brighton were good, in fact very good but they finished THIRD.
    Bad luck and yet you mention suspensions to key players? You mention injury time equaliser from Burnley etc and not how many injury time winners Brighton achieved – which was bad luck/good luck?
    Perhaps with Wednesday masterclass defensive attributes they would have been top of the league – bad luck?
    If Brighton keep the team, their manager and their heads they will win the league next year. They are an excellent advert for championship football so with a little tweaking and slight strengthening no-one will come near them.
    However, it is not bad luck that saw them finish third.

    Henry May 19, 2016 3:56 pm
  • This article us ridiculous.

    Burnley have gone half the season unbeaten. A run of 23 games that stretches back to boxing day.

    Burnley have finished top of the fair play league, and i believe have the joint best goals scored record and home record, and i believe the 2nd best defence record, away record. Burnley also had the leagues top scorer and i believe tom heaton kept more clean sheets than any other keeper in the league.

    It should also be noted that Burnley lost there 3 best players in pre season. When you factor how much burnley recieved in transfer fees for those players and then look at how much they spent in pre season you will that Burnley more or less broke even and barely spent a penny.

    The most important stat of all though – burnley were champions. They accumulated more points than any other team in the league.

    Ridiculous to even suggest that anybody other than Burnley are team of the season. Even more ridiculous to suggest Brighton deserve that accolade. Particularly given the fact they didnt seal promotion automatically or in the play offs.

    Completely biased and bitter arguement and article. Every team has bad luck, injuries, suspensions, decisions go against them. I dont see any of you Brighton fans mentioning the perfectly good acceptable goal Burnley had disallowed at your place. A decision which could have cost us promotion.

    get over it. Ridiculous article. Enough said.

    The Longside May 19, 2016 8:31 pm