Six things we learnt from Brighton's 4-1 win over Burton Albion
Dale Stephens shows his worth... again, Anthony Knockaert means business when he said he wanted to provide more assists... here are six things we learnt from Brighton & Hove Albion's 4-1 win over Burton.
WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE
That was the cry from the North Stand as early as the first half and it certainly got louder as the afternoon wore on. It may only be for a few hours, with Newcastle in action in the late kick-off, but the Albion faithful were certainly enjoying being back to winning ways and displacing their Championship rivals at the summit of the table after a loss and a draw in their last two league outings.
RINGING THE CHANGES
Whether it was with one eye on their upcoming tricky run or to spur his side back to winning ways, Chris Hughton rung the changes with five alterations from the XI that snatched a late draw at Brentford.
Injury duo Dale Stephens and Sam Badlock returned and Lewis Dunk was back after his one-game ban. Solly March and Tomer Hemed completed the five, with Uwe Huenemeier and Jiri Skalak out of the squad.
Dale Stephens was back with a bang. Plenty has been said of his key role for Brighton and he kept up his fine record on his return. The midfielder gives Albion a 55 per cent win ratio when in the team and that crashes to 25 per cent when he is not.
He has certainly been a big miss for the Seagulls and plenty will be delighted to have him back fit.
The winger spoke to the media on Thursday about wanting to provide more assists for his team-mates as well as goals as the season moves into the business end. He's certainly moving quickly to make good of his work.
His low cross to Tomer Hemed for Albion's opening goal and ball in for Glenn Murray's header meant he registered his fourth assist in two matches - that's made even more impressive by the fact before that, he had only set up one strike all season.
He certainly looked fired up after suffering an early kick from one of the Burton defenders that required treatment from the sidelines and it certainly looked a painful one. But it was Burton right-back Flanagan that looked pained for much of the afternoon, trying to deal with his Albion counterpart.
ON THE MARCH
Not to be outdone, Solly March is making it a wing wizard combination for the Seagulls. He claimed parts in two of the goals against Burton, showing quick feet to tee up Baldock and then even smarter skills to break into the box and draw a foul for the penalty.
Some neat trickery on the byline almost led to a third assist as he and Knockaert tormented the Burton full-backs for much of the afternoon. A force to be reckoned with.
THE BIG FREEZE
It certainly wasn't a sunny day at the seaside. Snowflakes fell pretty much all morning at a bitter Amex with the Falmer skyline a dull shade of grey. Despite the low temperatures, the snow failed to settle and the game was never in doubt.
While fans and the media froze on the sidelines in their scarfs, hats and gloves, there were few winter garments on the pitch. I was on glove watch and only five of the starting outfield players opted for the winter warmers. Knockaert was the only Albion player.