Despite sitting unbeaten at the top of the SkyBet Championship, I get the feeling Brighton & Hove Albion’s promotion challenge is yet to achieve recognition, as many wait for the tide to turn on the south coast.
The Albion are only four games away from surpassing the club record of 16 games without defeat, however a tough run of fixtures will stand in the way of writing the current squad into the history books.
It’s fair to say, nobody really expected the flying start we have seen so far this season, but how many more wins will it take in order to be taken seriously as a promotion contender?
I hear pundits on television completely overlooking the Albion when evaluating the current standings, as if the league table begins in second place. Middlesbrough look strong, QPR will be in the shakeup come the end of the season, yet absolutely no mention of the team looking down on the rest.
Perhaps it’s a position Chris Hughton prefers to be in, with the only pressure generated from the excitement within the club. The dark horse usually appears late on, rarely does it lead from the front but Brighton find themselves in that position and challenged to last the distance.
If they’re going to break the long lasting record that was set in 1931, first they must overcome Reading who will provide a stern test on Saturday, when the Albion make the short trip to the Madjeski Stadium.
A win for the Albion would not only secure three points and a step closer to the record, it would be a bold statement in search of respect and acknowledgement, as they take down one of the league’s big hitters.
Reading possess the league’s top goalscorer Nick Blackman and often yoyo between the top two tiers of English Football. They are consistently a force to be reckoned with in the Championship and no matter what the score line is on Saturday, the Albion will be left evaluating the strength of their squad compared to the competition they’re surrounded by.
With a number of key players likely to be out injured including captain Gordon Greer, reliable left back Gaetan Bong and livewire winger Kazenga Lua Lua, an away win would be even more impressive considering the restricted options at Hughton’s disposal.
Long trips to third placed Burnley and play-off chasing Sheffield Wednesday also stand in the way of breaking the record, either side of MK Dons visiting the Amex Stadium.
Having just turned the first corner, the season still has a long way to go. The Albion have sprinted into an early lead and with a win at Reading this weekend, I think the rest of the division will finally take note and respect the authenticity of Brighton’s long term intentions.
By Kieran Cleeves