Brighton returned to the top two of the Championship for the first time since December on Tuesday night, following their 1-0 victory over Reading at the Amex Stadium.
With Burnley not in action, Brighton knew that this was their chance to close what was quite a remarkable gap Sean Dyche’s men had opened up, and it was James Wilson who scored the winner in the 25th minute with a cool finish following a probing run from Sam Baldock.
Reading had their chances to get back into the match during the second half, but a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping by David Stockdale saw Chris Hughton’s men go into the top two, and are now six points behind Burnley.
They are also a point clear of Middlesbrough in third, and two clear of Hull thanks to Nottingham Forest drawing with the Tigers on Tuesday.
With that in mind, here are THREE things we learned from Tuesday’s match on the south coast…….
1) Back to winning ways
After two draws against Preston and Sheffield Wednesday in their previous two games, Brighton will be glad to get back to winning ways as they look to capatilise on ‘Boro and Hull falling off the pace.
They are unbeaten in six matches at home, and it is this amazing record that could see them edge their way into the Premier League next season.
With players like Anthony Knockaert, James Wilson and Sam Baldock, they definitely have a squad good enough to make it into the coveted top two.
Will Chris Hughton’s men go all the way?
2) Reading didn’t play badly
The problem for Brian McDermott’s men on Tuesday seemed to be their accuracy – they had 12 shots, not bad for an away performance at one of the top sides in the league – but could on divert two of them onto David Stockdale’s target.
Yann Kermorgant, Matej Vydra and Danny Williams all had good games for the Royals, but it turned out to not be enough to overcome this impressive Albion side.
However, during the first half, Reading’s defence was all over the place, not being able to come with the pace of the Brighton attack.
This is definitely an aspect that McDermott will need to work on ahead of Saturday’s visit of Cardiff, who themselves are chasing a play-off spot and possible promotion back to the Premier League.
3) Dale Stephens was magnificent
With a pass success rate of 84%, Stephens was excellent at both disrupting the Reading attack and starting the Brighton moves. With 7% of the total possession, Stephens saw more of the ball than anyone else on the pitch, proving how important he was to this Brighton performance.
The 26-year old, who signed for Brighton in January 2014, has featured in 36 of Brighton’s 37 games so far this season, scoring five times and picking up five assists along the way.
He could be classed as an unsung hero in this Brighton side, as many think of James Wilson, Anthony Knockaert or perhaps even David Stockdale when they think of Brighton’s best players this season.
Can Stephens lead Brighton to the top flight?
Brighton fans, what do you think? How good was Stephens on Tuesday night? Are you confident of gaining automatic promotion?
Reading fans, how would you rate your performance? Let us know your thoughts and opinions below!