Brighton arrive with inflated aspirations

Last season, long-suffering Charlton fans had to sit through a Bournemouth promotion party orchestrated by Yann Kermorgant, but at least we witnessed it from a safe place in mid table.

This year those of us attending The Valley for the two final games will have to endure a sold-out Jimmy Seed stand celebrating victory while we contemplate a return to League One and a criminal waste of everything Chris Powell achieved three years ago.

Brighton will arrive on Saturday in great form and full of confidence. They began the season with an unbeaten run of 21 games which equalled the second tier record set by West Ham in 1990-91. This run included the 3-2 win against us on December 5th when, for almost an hour, it really did look as if we could play slick passing football and compete with the best. Our late capitulation soon burst that particular balloon and Brighton's come back saw them maintain top spot.

They were eventually beaten on December 19th by Boro (3-0 at home) and then went on to lose four of the next five games. There was no panic, however, and Chris Hughton used his Championship experience to get them back on track.  Since January 12th they have won ten, drawn four and lost only once with a goal difference of 36-12.  They have won six of their last seven games. They have won their last two games 4-0 and 5-0.

Chris Hughton's achievement at Brighton shows the value of a manager with relevant experience and the ability to command the respect of the players.  It is easily forgotten that, when he replaced Sami Hyppia on New Year's Eve 2014, the club were languishing in 21st place. Why Brighton appointed Hyppia in the first place is anybody's guess, but who are we to ask?  His reign had also seen a bizarre approach to player recruitment with former player Adam Virgo commenting: "The signings Brighton made last year were just not good enough. They devalued the squad". Sounds familiar...

They are now so strong that they can afford to rotate players like Lua-Lua, James Wilson and Anthony Knockhaert. Steve Sidwell isn't guaranteed a starting place but it does seem that Dale Stephens is one of the first names on the team sheet.

It is hard to feel very interested in what side Riga will select. His teams have competed reasonably well over recent weeks but they are just not good enough, their confidence is low and we assume most of them won't be around next season.