Town toiled, Seagulls soared after respective play-off agony
PUBLISHED: 08:08 14 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:18 14 February 2017
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Mick McCarthy may cast a few envious glances the way of his good friend Chris Hughton tonight.
That’s because Brighton look set to succeed where the Blues failed.
The two teams, both owned by multi-millionaires, have suffered play-off heartbreak in the last two years – Town, in 2015, when they were beaten over two legs against Norwich, and Brighton, when they were defeated at the semi-final stage by Sheffield Wednesday last May.
However, while the Blues failed to build on the success of the 2014-15 campaign, the Seagulls quickly put last season’s disappointment to bed and look well set to bypass the play-offs this season.
Brighton currently occupy second place in the Championship and the Seagulls’ consistency means only an almighty slump in form will prevent them from taking their place at English football’s top table next season.
They have lost just twice at home since December 29, 2015 – the night Ipswich left with maximum points. Since then, they have taken 62 points from a possible 78 on home soil.
Hughton has also been able to call upon several loyal servants – the likes of big-money signings Tomer Hemed and Anthony Knockaert, along with Dale Stephens, Bruno and Lewis Dunk – who have performed consistently well for a long period now.
Along with Hemed and Knockaert last season, Hughton has been afforded the funds to spend substantial amounts on Shane Duffy, Oliver Norwood and Glenn Murray this season
Town’s squad didn’t break up after their play-off defeat – talisman Daryl Murphy only leaving at the start of this season.
But Town’s route into 2015-16 was not as smooth – long-term injuries to Teddy Bishop and David McGoldrick and star loanee Ryan Fraser, being compounded by a lack of success in the transfer market – albeit a limited market where McCarthy was restricted to free transfers and small-fee signings such as Larsen Toure, Tommy Oar and Piotr Malarczyk – none of whom made the any kind of impact.
Fourteen places and 31 points separated Town, in sixth, from 20th-placed Brighton at the end of the 2014-15 season.
The gap now is only 10 places and 25 points, but the clubs seem further apart than ever before.