Brighton started their season inauspiciously, being defeated 3-0 by League One Swindon in the first round of the League Cup. This poor start was compounded by a loss and a home draw in the first two games of the Championship, games in which Brighton failed to score a goal.
Since then, however, their form has been revelatory. Winning four games in a row, scoring 12 goals and conceding just two. With a trip to struggling Millwall this weekend preceding two games at the AMEX, Brighton have a chance to extend their winning run into October, and consolidate an early season place in the top six.
Central to the explosion of goals down at the seaside has been Craig Mackail-Smith. The £2.5million pound signing was a bit of a disappointment last season, having been the League One player of the year at Peterborough the season before.
Mackail-Smith only netted nine league goals last season, in 45 games. He’s already two thirds of the way to that total this year, having scored six in six. One of these was an absolute blockbuster of a goal, an overhead kick in the 3-1 win against Burnley.
Another catalyst for Brighton’s recent success has been the unlikely figure of Wayne Bridge. So long a football outcast, derided for a presumed reluctance to leave Manchester City’s high paying bosom in search of first team football. His first league goal in 9 years came in Brighton’s first win of the season, a 5-1 thrashing of Barnsley, and it was followed by another in the 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday.
Gus Poyet was linked to several Premiership clubs over the summer, having led Brighton to 10th place in their first season back in the Championship. Aston Villa and West Brom were reported as interested, as were his former club Tottenham Hotspur.
Poyet has Brighton playing attractive attacking football, when they hit their straps they can blow teams away. If they can keep hold of the Uruguayan all season, along with the now free-scoring Mackail-Smith, they have a very good chance of being in and around the playoffs come the end of the season.
With an excellent new stadium that is being expanded further over the next few years, and an exciting young manager and squad, Brighton can leave behind the years when they were a Championship yo-yo club, and begin to look up at a higher league altogether.
image: © Daniel Coomber