|Brighton and Hove Albion 0 v 1 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 30th March 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Saints At Brighton The Preview
Friday, 29th Mar 2019 10:08
It is three weeks since that great victory over Spurs, can Saints keep the momentum going in West Sussex and pull clear of relegation.
The great thing about football is that there is rarely anything guaranteed and so many different factors that can conspire to change the course of a game, for Saints the main issue will be whether they can keep the momentum going after winning two of the three games played before our enforced lay off and playing so well at Old Trafford in the middle game of that trio.
For Brighton it is a different factor they will be trying to concentrate on this game and keep their focus away from an FA Cup semi final in a week's time, but they have the little matter of playing us this weekend then travel to Chelsea in midweek.
Their game against us is the first of five fixtures in 16 days that by the end of it could see them in an FA Cup final and completely safe from relegation with over 40 points, or at the other end of the scale see them out of the Cup and firmly in a relegation battle and with the worst run in of all the teams in the final games.
So Chris Hughton will be desperately trying to keep his team focused on the old adage of taking every game as it comes.
We however have different priorities, we will be trying to focus on pulling clear of the battle to avoid the drop and although we have the downside of this three week break, we also have the confidence that comes from our recent form.
But we also now what our problems are, we know the centre of defence is not good enough and we are short of at least one possibly two players in this department, this has cost us dearly all season, but even in the last six games defensive errors have cost us 3 points against relegation rivals that is the error had not been made would now see us only one win from safety and it could be said that we got lucky against Spurs given the chances they wasted when poorly marked.
But we can do nothing about that, we just have to go out and use the players we have to the best of their abilities and hope that they get lucky as they did against Spurs.
But there is good news for Ralph Hassenhuttl, the problem up front is going to be eased by the return of Danny Ings, who as missed all bar the first 27 minutes of the last six games, you would hope that a fit Ings will offer us better scoring opportunities, hopefully he is fit to start, although after two months out the manager may err on the side of caution.
Form wise though there is no contest, Brighton have been awful in the League in the last 8 games although conversly they have been won games in the cup, in the last 8 games they have scraped a win in the last two against Huddersfield and Palace, but gained only a single draw in the other 6, yes they will be buoyed up by these two wins that had they failed to register would now see them deep in the mire, but will that be more than counterbalanced by all eyes being on that Wembley semi.
That is the good thing about football though, it could affect them badly, but who knows, some teams use cup runs to kick start their seasons, others find them having the opposite affect as we did a year ago.
Brighton are a team of few goals at either end, they have scored only 32, that is two less than ourselves and only the bottom three and Newcastle have scored less, but at the back they are much tighter, we have let in 50, they have conceded only 42, that is less than the five teams below them and all but five of the fourteen above.
Glen Murray is their danger man with 11 goals to his name but 3 of those have been penalties and their next top scorer is Shane Duffy with 5 suggesting that the danger from them comes from set pieces, worryingly something that we struggle to deal with as was proved back at St Mary's back in September where the we let in yet another last minute goal by failing to deal with a dead ball situation and conceding a penalty duly converted by Murray.
The problem for the Seagulls though is that at 35 their leading scorer is not getting any younger and these days rarely completes 90 minutes, indeed after doing so 9 times out of the first 11 games, in the following 18 spanning 5 months he has managed the 90 on only 4 occasions and started on the bench for another 4.
These days he seems to come off around the hour mark and has scored in only 2 games out of the last 14, two against Fulham and then in the last Premier League game played, this against Palace.
So Murray is a threat but these days one that is intermittent and only on the pitch for around 60-70 minutes, if you can stop him scoring in that period then you have a good chance as Brighton have few others who can hit the back of the net unless it is in a dead ball situation.
The truth is for this game we have to dig in and hope our frailties are not exposed, but expose theirs.
We have won their once this season in the League cup, although both teams had virtual reserve teams out, this time though it is about having the confidence that we have achieved results in the past two months without our key striker, now we have it back we are a much better team than the League table ,heavily distorted by the first 15 games of the season under Mark Hughes, actually shows.
Win this game and we put the cat amongst the pigeons, lose it and it is not a disaster but it makes things harder, we have to remember that in the final run in our first 3 of the 8 are our hardest, for the other's it is the other way around, in the main it's their final fixtures that are tough.
This is one of those periods that it is hard to call, if the next three go to form and the League table then we are going to be lucky to get two points, anymore than that and we are doing well, it is now about teams upping their games and holding their nerves and we have the advantage here, we are a team that is improving after a bad start, Cardiff have been consistently bad all season, Burnley pretty much the same and Brighton although they have picked in the last two had been dropping like a stone.
The message is clear for Saints fans though, we have to keep calm and carry on, we are good enough and can pull clear, winning at Brighton would make that sooner than later.
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