Brighton preview and pubs: Can Brentford clip Seagulls’ wings?
Brighton arrive at Griffin Park for a rare Sunday afternoon fixture still reeling from Thursday night’s 3-1 defeat at Huddersfield.
That televised game, the reason we are playing them on Sunday and not Saturday, was only the Seagulls’ fourth league defeat of an impressive season and they stayed top of the table going into the weekend’s games because Newcastle conceded a late equaliser to QPR on Wednesday.
It was their second consecutive Championship away defeat, after they lost 2-0 at Preston last month, and third away loss in a row in all competitions following their FA Cup exit at National League leaders Lincoln last Saturday.
Before they suffered defeat at Deepdale, Chris Hughton’s side had enjoyed a 19-game unbeaten run in the Championship.
The last team to beat them was – Brentford! We are the only visiting side to win this season at the Amex, where they have won 11 of their 14 matches.
Our 2-0 win there, with a goal in cach half from Scott Hogan, followed their only other defeat this season – 2-0 at Newcastle.
Brighton have won seven, and drawn four, of their 14 away games this campaign, bouncing back in style from their heartbreaking end to last season.
The Seagulls were pipped for promotion on goal difference by Middlesbrough on the final day of the season after the sides drew 1-1 at the Riverside.
They then went out of the play-offs in the semi-finals, 3-1 on aggregate to Sheffield Wednesday.
It was the third time in their five seasons back in the Championship that their challenge has ended in the end-of-season showdown.
After winning promotion as League One champions in 2011 and having a mid-table year, they then finished fourth and sixth in consecutive seasons – losing in the play-off semi-finals each time to rivals Crystal Palace and then Derby – before narrowly avoiding relegation the following year.
The Seagulls are bidding to return to the top flight for the first time since 1983 – the same season they also reached the FA Cup final, where they were beaten 4-0 by Manchester United in a replay.
They moved into the Amex Community Stadium in 2011 after 12 years at Withdean athletics stadium. They had been forced to groundshare for two seasons at Gillingham after leaving the Goldstone Ground.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Ex-Brentford defender Chris Hughton has been in charge of Brighton for more than two years now, having taken over in December 2014.
He is the third longest-serving manager in the Championship behind Mick McCarthy at Ipswich and Preston’s Simon Grayson and 19th longest-serving in all four divisions.
His first game in charge was an FA Cup tie at Griffin Park and he came away with a win.
Hughton finished his playing career with the Bees in 1992. Signed near the end of the 1991/92 season in which we won the Third Division title, he played in the first 29 games of our campaign in Division One (now the Championship) before being injured in our December win at Sunderland and being unable to play again.
The former Tottenham and West Ham left-back also won 53 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
After returning to Spurs as coach and assistant manager for 10 years, he moved to Newcastle – leading them back to the Premier League at the first attempt in 2010.
Although he lost that job midway through the following season, he moved on to Birmingham – taking them into the Championship play-offs and the group stages of the Europa League.
In the summer of 2012 he moved on to Norwich but after nearly two years in charge he left the club in April 2014. with them battling against relegation from the top flight.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
As mentioned earlier, Brentford are the only visiting team to win at the Amex this season, when a goal in each half from Scott Hogan wrapped up a 2-0 victory in early September.
BBC Radio Sussex’s Brighton and Hove Albion commentator Johnny Cantor, who you can follow on Twitter here, analyses Brighton’s season so far, remembers an “interesting” previous visit to Griffin Park and “looks forward” to his day in the Griffin Park press box….
Q – How would you assess Brighton’s season so far – as expected or better than expected?
A – I think any Albion fan would say that it could not have gone any better. Top of the table (as of 27th January) and with a comfortable gap between them and third, the position in the table looks superb.
Despite having to grind out some results it has to be said the style of football has also been decent, which is important to the supporters on the south coast. It could have gone one of two ways after the heartache of the play-offs (third year in four) but you have to give credit to the manager who has brought them even closer together and made them even more determined to achieve success.
Q – Given the way things have gone so far, is there anything that can stop the Seagulls earning automatic promotion?
A – Well with the new regulations on loan signings, injuries to key players is the only possible issue. The spine of the team is excellent so they will hope Stockdale in goal, Dunk & Duffy in the centre of defence, Stephens in the middle of the park and top scorer Glenn Murray remain fit and healthy.
They have coped with a few absentees across the season so far but a sustained period without one or two of those could cause issues. They have just added Chuba Akpom from Arsenal to the current three strikers Murray, Hemed and Baldock after being in the market for a striker or a number 10.
They also have March, Murphy and Knockaert who can play just off one forward but don’t think Hughton would be keen to move away from 4-4-2 long-term unless he really had to. As one of the players has put it, its theirs to throw away.
Q – What has been the key to ignoring last season’s promotion near-miss and play-off defeat and doing so well?
A – They kept key players such as Dunk, Knockaert and Stephens despite interest from the top-flight and a few key signings. They also brought in a proven Championship goalscorer in Glenn Murray (now on a permanent deal), an international centre-back in Shane Duffy and the experience of ex-Brentford midfielder Steve Sidwell on and off the pitch. His influence cannot be underestimated. A calm figure he also knows when the team need to dig in.
In Anthony Knockaert they have a match-winner, in Solly March they have a wonderful young talent who was missing last year due to injury.
Q – Do you have any good or bad memories, or have you been involved in any unusual incidents, of previous trips to Griffin Park, or in home games against Brentford?
A – Well I was actually born in what was Chiswick Hospital (a very long time ago!) on the flyover next to the Fullers Brewery on the A4 so have never worked out whether I was closer to Brentford, QPR or Fulham at birth. (Ed: Sadly, Google Maps suggests the site of the now closed hospital is closer to Craven Cottage rather than Griffin Park….)
At one of my first schools our football coach was a Bees player but neither I or my parents can remember who it was!
I have covered several clubs over the years but as a reporter one visit to GP stands out. I have only been late for one game in my 14-year career and at 2.10pm, 10 minutes after I was due on air, I arrived on my own not knowing what to do with the car.
As I thought about weeping, I noticed a spot was clear outside one seriously busy pub with Bees fans standing in the sun having a few drinks. In a marked van I had to slowly ease 15 lads off the street on to the pavement.
Apart from the banter they were harmless or so I thought. At 6.30pm I went to leave and thought I might just check the van. Squeezed under the back tyres were two glass pint pots ready to ruin my trip home! Saying that the fans have always been warm and welcoming and I love coming apart from the, shall we say, “challenging” press seats.
Q – Brentford are still the only visiting team to win at the Amex this season – what did Brighton learn from that game to stop them losing any more home games?
A – Nothing specific but I think it just reaffirmed the team’s belief that you cannot underestimate anyone and cannot allow to give too many chances to the opposition or you will get beaten – especially when a team has a great striker like Scott Hogan on form like on that day.
Q – If the club was to go up, do you think the squad would need much alteration to compete in the Premier League?
A – If the club go up I think they would adopt an approach more like Burnley or Bournemouth rather than QPR a few years back.
Yes of course they will need strengthening, the club will have funds and the chairman is rich but he is also shrewd so won’t throw good money after bad. He will try and keep the core of the squad together and once again add in a few areas like up front where they may need more top class firepower.
They may need more quality and pace at full-back as well. if they don’t go up, many of the current stars may look elsewhere for opportunities.
Q – Which Bees players will you be wary of?
A – Having watched Brentford over the years the thing that has always struck me is that they are a good team. I have loved watching Jota who is one of those players like Knockaert who gets bums off seats.
The Bees don’t seem to have big-time Charlies and that is their strength I think and to their credit. It will be interesting to see how Florian Jozefzoom gets on – and how my summariser pronounces his name!!
Brighton played a 4-4-2 formation at Huddersfield on Thursday, but will be forced into at least one change for Sunday’s match.
David Stockdale, who has only missed one league game this season, was in goal.
Bruno, who has only missed two matches, was at right-back, on loan West Brom defender Sebastien Pocognoli at left-back alongside the regular central defensive partnership of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk, who will be missing today after receiving a red card at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Anthony Knockaert, another virtual ever-present, was on the right of midfield with Jamie Murphy on the left with Oliver Norwood and Beram Kayal in the middle.
The front two were Glenn Murray, joint fourth top scorer in the Championship with 15 goals this season, and Tomer Hemed.
Among the substitutes were two former Brentford loan players – midfielder Steve Sidwell, who played a key part in our run to the play-off final while on loan from Arsenal during the 2001/02 season and scoring in a 4-0 win over the Seagulls, and striker Chuba Akpom, who made four substitute appearances for us at the start of 2014, and joined the Seagulls from the Gunners on loan at the start of this week.
Winger Solly March also came on, while the unused subs included defender Fikayo Tomori, who is on loan from Chelsea and who could replace Dunk.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Brighton fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
There are now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
A tube strike is due to start at 6pm – you can check out details of that and any weekend engineering work on Transport for London’s website here.