For the first time as the Seagulls sit atop the Championship I found myself wondering could Brighton get promoted automatically and what happens if we do? But first the match. Birmingham under Gary Rowett are in the top six and a stern test but one which Brighton passed and won by our trademark one goal margin. We put them under immediate pressure and no surprise when Solly March, who is having such a great season gave us the lead. Birmingham pulled one back when Stockdale parried Maghoma’s shot into the air and Jon Toral headed home. Those that enjoyed their half time hospitality too long missed the Brighton winner at the start of the second half when, after another run by March his shot was saved by our ex keeper Tomasz Kushzack but only into the path of the old warhorse Bobby Zamora. A poor referee who did us no favours and ruled out a seemingly perfectly good 3rd goal added 6 extra minutes during which Stockdake made a fine save.
Brighton just keep going, we grind our results especially on the road. We have never defeated anyone by more than one goal, we are the draw specialists, we have inferior goal difference but still the unbeaten run, now 18 games continue. We are 10 points clear of the seventh team so at least a play-off position now seems likely but what happens if we get promotion?
There will be much celebration, much deserved lauding of Chris Hughton who has transformed a relegation side into a promotion one and much savouring of Premier football and £120m revenue that goes with it. Of the three promotion teams last year – Watford,Norwich and Bournemouth -only the last is in the relegation zone. However I do worry what sort of season we would have, whether Chris would get the sack as happened after he achieved promotion for Newcastle. No one doubts the board’s dedication to the club, nor should they, but £120m is also the figure that the new stadium and training centre cost.
Perhaps I’m being too negative. The atmosphere round the town and in the stadium is a joy especially after the season we had last time. The taxi driver that took me to the Amex was a supporter as almost all cabbies here are and much of the talk on the journey was Seagull-centric till he struck some metal object in the road causing a puncture. Would the run continue? Would loanee James Wilson from Manchester United make a difference by solving the goal scoring problem (he hit the post). In our 1901 club I saw some old faces from the Players Club of Sussex CCC whom I never knew had tickets there. As Sussex were relegated our sense of sporting civic wellbeing is all the higher. It’s a long way to go and maybe the promised land will not be milk and honey but hey it’s been a hell of a journey so far.