By Paul Dantanus
Last week Gus Poyet celebrated two successful years as Brighton manager, but now he faces possibly his toughest test yet. Saturday’s trip to the St. Mary’s Stadium is against a Southampton side who have won 19 consecutive home games, the longest winning run in English football since Bill Shankly’s Liverpool team in the 1971-72 season.
So far this year the Albion have been far from consistent, and they no longer have the pleasure of looking down on their south coast rivals. Last year Southampton finished 2nd in League One behind the Seagulls, but now sit five points clear at the top of the Championship with definite Premier League ambitions. And Saints boss Nigel Adkins has only needed fourteen months to shape his side into promotion favourites.
After a long international break, Brighton are starting to look free from injury. Adam El-Abd has returned to training, leaving Gary Dicker and Tommy Elphick as the only absentees from the squad. Vicente Rodriguez, Billy Paynter, Ashley Barnes and Will Hoskins are all available.
For his part, the Southampton manager is keeping his line-up a mystery. When asked about his starting eleven for tomorrow’s fixture, Adkins said: “We aren’t going to talk about them because we try to keep as many things as close to our chests as possible.”
Speaking ahead of Brighton’s visit, he said: “We know that the opposition will view it as a chance for them to get three points, but that is the beauty of this division and the beauty of football.
“There will be a full house on Saturday at St Mary’s, the atmosphere will be great because there were two great games between us last season and I’m sure that this weekend will be no different.”
Gus Poyet’s first game as Brighton manager back in 2009 was a 3-1 win away at Southampton, with goals from Glenn Murray (2) and Andrew Crofts. To get a similar result and end the league leaders’ home record will require something truly special.