Why February is make or break for Brighton’s Premier League dream
It may be the shortest month on the calendar, but with seven huge games it’s one of Brighton’s busiest, and arguably, most important.
The Seagulls having been chasing the Premier League dream for a few years now, and came achingly close last time out.
But despite that crushing disappointment in the play-offs last summer, Chris Hughton’s men have responded in fine fashion, and have occupied an automatic promotion spot for the majority of the season.
February is throwing all sorts or hurdles at the south coast club however.
It may be the month of Valentine’s, but Cupid is nowhere to be found with Hughton’s men facing each of the other three sides in the top four before March arrives.
A trip to high-flying Huddersfield kicked off the February onslaught, and in truth, David Wagner’s side dominated in a 3-1 win.
A visit to Brentford came next, and having found themselves 2-0 down at half-time, Hughton must have spoken majestic words of wisdom at the interval. Brighton somehow snatched a thrilling 3-3 draw in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
Tomor Hemed’s leveller could prove vital come May, as two successive defeats may well have spun Brighton’s season out of control.
With the dust settled on the weekend’s action, Hughton’s charges sit five points clear of Reading with a game in hand, but that’s no reason to take things easy.
Next up comes a home tie versus Burton, and this is the wrong part of the season to play sides battling the drop.
Ipswich will be the next visitors to the Amex, but despite their mid-table position, Mick McCarthy’s men boast plenty of dangerous ability – especially the in-form Tom Lawrence who has eight goals in eight games in 2017.
And then it really gets tough. A trip to Barnsley looms on February 18, and despite financial concerns, the Tykes are enjoying a great campaign, and are very much in play-off contention.
But then it’s crunch time.
On Saturday 25, Jaap Stam’s Reading visit the south coast for a fixture which could go a long way to deciding each side’s fate this season.
And then, just three days later, Rafa Benitez and Newcastle make the trip down to East Sussex.
So, there we go.
Burton, Ipswich, Barnsley, Reading and Newcastle.
Five fixtures which are fraught with trouble and which appear to increase with danger as the month goes on.
And remember, this is no ordinary promotion campaign.
Brighton are putting themselves under incredible financial pressure to reach the promised land, and a number of key men are expected to leave this summer if they fall short.
February is derived from the Latin for purification, and over the next few weeks we’re set to find out just how pure Brighton’s promotion credentials really are.
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