Brighton & Hove Albion finally succumbed to the pressure beneath them this week, falling from the summit of the SkyBet Championship, after a string of three successive stalemates gifted their rivals the opportunity to overtake in the promotion race.
The Albion’s blistering start to the season has somewhat cooled, picking up six draws in their last eight games, symmetrically split either side of victories over Leeds United and Bristol City.
The win at Elland Road ended a dry spell of draws, doing little to extend the club’s lead in pole position, however contributing towards equalling their club record unbeaten run and points tally come the end of the season.
A point on the road is not to be sniffed at, no matter where it’s collected. It shows resilience away from home and provides the perfect platform to build upon, with Saturday’s visit of MK Dons offering a perfect example.
It’s all good and well staying unbeaten, but winning games can be the difference between a good point and a bad point. Anything but a win against MK Dons this weekend, will leave fans feeling disorientated in assessment of Albion’s recent form.
If it wasn’t for the breathtaking start that saw six league wins in seven games, a hattrick of draws during September would never have been enough to maintain the Seagulls’ nosebleed position above the rest.
Fortunately, that cushion was there to assist, however now the Albion find themselves outside the automatic promotion places and in desperate need of a win, as they look to maintain their challenge to reach the top flight of English football.
The most positive thing to take from Albion’s recent repetition is the fact four of the six games were played away from home. If tables were turned and four of the draws were played in front of the Amex faithful, the importance of winning games on the road would increase, placing added pressure on a squad who are already working beyond what was expected.
Most recently, the Albion managed to secure points at Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, two promotion-chasing outfits that have brushed opponents aside consistently this season. Therefore, Albion’s resistance to lie down and take something from the game is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
On the other hand, with no disrespect to Albion’s opponents this weekend, a draw will do little in terms of propelling the team forwards and could trigger frustration around the club, with a tough trip to leapfrogging Burnley following the visit of MK Dons.
The Don’s currently occupy 20th position in the Championship, exactly where Chris Hughton’s side finished up last season. With that in mind, perhaps some would say a point this weekend wouldn’t be the end of the world, recording the club’s longest every unbeaten run and still sitting pretty within the top six.
But realistically, after the start Brighton fans have been spoilt with, the bar has been raised and expectations are now through the roof. If the Albion are going to be in the promotion shake up come the end of the season, these are the games they must be looking to win.
Maintenance work has been in progress as of late, however a win over MK Dons this weekend will reconstruct the promotion form that is needed and make the underlying foundations seem all the sweeter, as we head into the international break.