Opposing View: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton boss Gus Poyet
Brighton boss Gus Poyet

DESPITE an excellent start, very good recent form and strong position, Gus Poyet’s Brighton are still trying to find their feet in the Championship.

But their current position just outside the play offs shows they will be very dangerous when they do.

Abdul Razak

Abdul Razak

Albion strolled through the early months of the season, still buoyant after cantering to the League One title.

But they seemed to get found out before Christmas and a slide down the table began as goals dried up.

Poyet’s side is characterised by its steady build-up play, intelligent use of space and combative nature.

Brighton have been reluctant to go around or over the opposition and instead look to play their way through.

Opposition managers seemed to catch on and began to stifle Albion, ensuring Craig Mackail-Smith has struggled to recreate his goalscoring exploits since his summer move from Peterborough.

The steady Albion and more frenetic Posh are very different in their styles and Mackail-Smith shone with the latter.

But rather than calling on the striker to change his ways, Poyet has recently suggested the team must look to adapt more to Mackail-Smith’s strengths.

Form has improved since the turn of the year and Albion’s only defeat of 2012 so far came in the FA Cup against Liverpool.

With the aim of getting the best out of Mackail-Smith, the Uruguayan has recently encouraged his players to quicken their usual methodical build-up play on occasion with balls over the top so the Scottish international can use his blistering pace to get ahead of defenders.

This proved successful last weekend as the striker grabbed his first home goal since September by finishing a break started by a long ball from former Rovers defender Gordon Greer and it seems very likely Poyet will encourage more of the same now he has been proved right.

But there will not be a wholesale change of the Albion style.

Ashley Barnes provided the other two goals in the 3-0 win and both were built more of the usual Brighton ilk with two fine finishes from the former Plymouth man.

Albion lack obvious width but this is made up for with intelligent movement of the forward pairing plus midfielders Will Buckley and Abdul Razak, who recently signed on loan from Manchester City.

Box-to-box midfielder Razak (pictured left) demonstrated his excellent quality in short distribution against Ipswich and showed he is a perfect fit for Poyet’s style.

Buckley is given license to roam behind the front two and looks to exploit space created in particular by Mackail-Smith who tries to draw defenders with searching runs.

This gives the opposition plenty to think about when defending and hard work without the ball will be vital if Rovers are to gain a positive result on Saturday.

Central players such as Brian Stock must track runs from the Brighton midfield and full backs should act as cover when the strikers look to draw out the centre halves.

Goals away from home are Brighton’s biggest statistical weakness with only three other Championship sides scoring fewer on the road this season.

This will give Rovers confidence as only two sides outside the top ten have better home defensive records.