History was made on Saturday afternoon, as Brighton and Hove Albion’s current crop of high flyers overcame MK Dons at the Amex Stadium, sealing a 17-game unbeaten run that toppled the previous record set in 1931.
Early goals from Solly March and Jamie Murphy put the Albion well on their way to breaking the long standing record. Nicky Maynard struck before half time but the home side saw the game through to the finish, earning another three points in the promotion race as they penned fresh ink into the record books.
The win ended a three game barren spell without a win and pushed the Seagulls into second position in the SkyBet Championship. With the club on a high after the weekend’s achievement, they now head into a fortnight international break before returning to league action in front of the Sky cameras away at Burnley, a side hot on their heels in third place.
With the competition break underway, it offers a perfect chance to reflect on the season so far, what lies ahead for the Albion and exactly how important the January transfer window could be for Chris Hughton’s overachieving squad.
Let’s start at the Riverside Stadium back in the opening days of May. The month may have only just started but a long miserable season was coming to a close for Brighton, a side who finished their campaign with only one win in 11 games.
It was a drab 0-0 stalemate that would have been a good result under normal circumstances, however it was a point in no direction as Albion fans suffered their final away trip in a season that left nothing to play for and offered little promise for the future.
Little did they know, it was the start of something very special.
After a fine summer of recruitment, Brighton recorded six wins in their opening seven league games, leaving them top of the league as the Championship’s surprise package delivered on a consistent basis.
A collection of hard fought draws on the road followed, in amongst a smaller handful of wins that have kept the club fighting at the top end of the table, however sailing in stronger winds as their promotion rivals pick up the early pace set on the south coast.
The victory over MK Dons was obviously pivotal in securing the impressive club record, however the value of the win in terms of maintaining the mental toughness within the squad was imperative going into the international breather.
Anything less than three points at the weekend, would have tarnished the accumulation of two precious away points in their previous outings at Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, which would have been disappointing for Albion’s hard-working squad who refuse to be beaten.
Fortunately the result went in favour of the Sussex club, concluding a positive week both on and off the field, picking up five points in the league and two awards at the 2015 Football Business Awards, a sign of the club’s current stature in all departments.
The 17-game unbeaten run has been far from comfortable, with every single game hinging on a single goal leading into the final whistle. It has required tremendous character as a team and resilience to remain competitive from start to finish, whether that’s withstanding pressure to hold onto a lead or grinding out a result when backs are against the wall.
However, despite all the strength Albion have shown to remain in contention, they must get tougher as the season progresses and here are the reasons why.
Daunting fixtures stand in the way of Chris Hughton’s side heading into the New Year, as they come up against the entirety of the current play-off roster, in games that will either widen the gap between themselves and the chasing pack, or spark a freefall as Albion filter down the league table.
Albion have begun painting a beautiful picture so far this season, but with more work to be done, the portrait will become clearer as we head into January, with the chance to create something spectacular or spoil an idea with serious potential.
If the south coast club can make it through December’s busy schedule unscathed, a kinder run of fixtures wait on the other side and by that time, expectations will be magnified with their current league position taken into account.
January will be an important month for the club, however to what extent will be dependent on Albion’s form during the previous month. A string of uninspiring results will increase the need for transfer window activity, with a striker undoubtedly sitting top of that list.
If there’s one negative to take from Albion’s outstanding unbeaten run, it’s their lack of ammunition in front of goal. Tomer Hemed started the season in fine goalscoring form, however the Israeli hasn’t hit the back of the net since the middle of September.
Sam Baldock and Bobby Zamora have chipped in with two goals apiece, but when you consider Burnley’s Andre Gray has scored more than all of Albion’s forward options added together, not even the impressive league position can cover up the areas that lack authority within the Albion ranks.
With the Albion only managing to score more than twice in only one game this season, it’s a clear area for improvement that will only strengthen their chances of reaching the top flight of English football.
The international break will give the squad time to recover, with captain Gordon Greer and Kazenga LuaLua likely to return from injury in time for the trip to Turf Moor. The Albion will then begin wrapping up 2015 with a handful of tough games over the Christmas period, as they look to reward fans with the perfect present going into the New Year, unbroken hope and potential.