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2016-17 Season Review Part One

Well, we finally did it. One of the most memorable campaigns in Brighton and Hove Albion history ended with promotion to the Premier League, meaning that next season the Seagulls will play top flight football for the first time in 34 years.

There was plenty of talk about hangovers from missing out by two goals and Seagulls choking throughout the campaign, but Chris Hughton's side lasted 43 games to go secure a spot in the elite for 2016-17. The less said about the last three, the better.

It was an outstanding achievement from everybody involved with the club and frankly, we are probably going to struggle to fit all the highs in to the word count for this such has been the great time had by all.

We'll do our best though, so sit back and relive the year Brighton and Hove Albion finally became a Premier League club...

Pre-Season 2016
Having missed out on promotion by just two goals, the key over the summer for Chris Hughton was evolution rather than revolution. Burnley and Newcastle came knocking for Dale Stephens and Anthony Knockaert respectively but Tony Bloom had seemingly learnt his lesson when selling the family silver after previous near misses in the play offs and turned down any bids for any players. This was particularly bold in the case of Stephens who only had a year to run on his contract and tried to force through a move by handing in a transfer request. Coming in through the door were Steve Sidwell who turned his loan from Stoke into a permanent deal, Oliver Norwood from Reading and Glenn Murray, signed on a season long loan from Bournemouth. Despite being a proven goal scorer at this level and knowing that was where we were let down last season, it was amazing that some supporters were against his signing purely because he left on a free for Crystal Palace as Gus Poyet didn't rate him. Friendly results weren't exactly encouraging as only two wins were recorded, 4-0 against both Crawley and Oxford, with defeats against Fulham, Luton, Stevenage and Lazio in a game in which both sides spent the first half rather helpfully wearing blue. Of more pressing concern was an injury to Connor Goldson, leaving Hughton with Lewis Dunk as his only fit centre back on the eve of the season.
   
August 2016
The season opened with a 0-0 draw at strongly fancied Derby. Glenn Murray scored twice on his second home debut - just as he had on his first eight and a half years previously - as Nottingham Forest were defeated 3-0 at the Amex, Anthony Knockaert grabbing the other in front of the Sky cameras. Knockaert and Murray were again on the scoresheet along with Tomer Hemed as Rotherham were beaten by the same scoreline three days later while a 2-2 draw at Reading followed. Knockaert again netted along with Sam Baldock. More worryingly, Liam Rosenior broke an ankle in a horror challenge from the Biscuitmen's Yann Kermogant. That forced Chris Hughton into finally addressing the defensive situation which had become a full blown crisis with Sebastien Pocognoli arriving on-loan from West Brom and Shane Duffy becoming the most expensive signing in Albion history at 4m from Blackburn. His debut was a 2-0 defeat against an impressive Newcastle side with Baldock seeing red. The stiffs meanwhile made solid progress in the EFL Cup, dispatching of Colchester and Oxford.
Record: P7, W4, D2, L1, F16, A6

Results: 0-0 Derby A, 4-0 Colchester H, 3-0 Nottingham Forest H, 3-0 Rotherham H, 2-2 Reading A, 4-2 Oxford A, 0-2 Newcastle A
League Position at End of Month: 8th
   
September 2016
Brighton returned from the international break with a whimper as Scott Hogan looked like a world beater, scoring twice for Brentford in their 2-0 win at the Amex which represented a first home loss since New Years Day for the Albion. Things got back on track as Anthony Knockaert netted the only goal of the game at home to early leaders Huddersfield to inflict a first league defeat of the season on the Terriers. It looked like our first ever league visit to the Pirelli Stadium was going to end in a stalemate until Tomer Hemed showed nerves of steel to net an 88th minute winner from the penalty spot in a 1-1 draw. Hemed scored again three days after that but it wasn't enough as our reserves lost 2-1 to Reading reserves in the third round of the EFL Cup. Normal service was resumed against Barnlsey at the Amex, Glenn Murray scoring both goals in a 2-0 win which was followed by a delightful Tuesday night trip to Ipswich. A recording of this game could prove to be the breakthrough in the search for the cure for insomnia as the only thing of note that happened was Dale Stephens being sent off.
Record: P6, W3, D1, L2, F5, A4

Results: 0-2 Brentford H, 1-0 Huddersfield H, 1-0 Burton A, 1-2 Reading H, 2-0 Barnsley H, 0-0 Ipswich A
League Position at End of Month: 4th
   
October 2016
The curse of Hillsborough was well known among Albion fans with no victory in 16 visits to Sheffield Wednesday. It proved to be 17th time lucky however as Sam Baldock and Anthony Knockaert scored to go some way to banishing the painful memories of last years play off semi final defeat. Again, returning from an international break proved to be a real problem as a last minute Simon Makienok goal earned Preston a 2-2 draw at the Amex after Baldock and Glenn Murray looked to have done enough to secure three points against another of our bogey sides. Baldock was on fire and scored again in a 1-0 win over Wolves which was followed by Dale Stephens netting the only goal of the game at the DW Stadium. Some real momentum was being built by the Seagulls by now ahead of the visit of another side strongly fancied to go the distance in the promotion, Norwich City. What followed was one of the best performances the Amex has witnessed as they were blown away, the Albion running out 5-0 winners thanks to a Murray hat-trick and goals from Lewis Dunk and Knockaert to move into the top two
Record: P5, W4, D1, L0, F11, A3

Results: 1-2 Sheff Wed A, 2-2 Preston H, 1-0 Wolves H, 1-0 Wigan A, 5-0 Norwich H
League Position at End of Month: 2nd
   
November 2016
There were certainly fireworks on Bonfire Night 2016 at Bristol City, Steve Sidwell scoring one of the best goals in Albion history from the half way line in a 2-0 victory. Jamie Murphy got the other and there were touching tributes to Anthony Knockaert who was absent after the sudden death of his father which highlighted the #Together-ness of the squad. Another pesky international break came along after that and, you've guessed it, we were poor again in our first game back after a fortnight off in stealing a 1-1 draw from Aston Villa thanks to a Glenn Murray goal. Assistant manager Colin Calderwood was on gardening leave by this point having attempted to join Steve Bruce at Villa and that did eventually go through with former Cardiff boss Paul Trollope coming in as Chris Hughton's new number two. How much of an expert Trollope was in burglary we don't know but that is exactly what Brighton did against Fulham, winning 2-1 through second half goals from Sam Baldock and Murray despite the Cottagers dominating the game and being easily the best team to visit the Amex by that point in the season. Sorry for that one, Fulham fans.
Record: P3, W2, D2, L0, F5, A3

Results: 2-0 Bristol C A, 1-1 Aston Villa H, 2-1 Fulham H
League Position at End of Month: 2nd
   
December 2016
Last seasons 4-1 defeat at the imaginatively named Cardiff City Stadium proved very costly and there was a slight improvement this time around, a 0-0 draw only notable for Gaetan Bong being dismissed in the last minute. The traditional home win on Sky over Europe's biggest club The Leeds United followed thanks to penalties from Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed. A topsy turvy game at Ewood Park eventually ended in a 3-2 win against struggling Blackburn, Shane Duffy scoring against his former side along with Dale Stephens and a 13th of the season for Murray - the previous 12 of course all coming at home. He added a second on the road in the next game away at Birmingham with a last minute header that sparked wild scenes in the away end and on the pitch - Murray sprinting the length of St Andrews to celebrate with the away support while one member of the WAB team split their trousers in two. QPR were brushed aside 3-0 with goals from Sam Baldock, Murry and Knockaert while the final game of the month against Cardiff - yes, we should've played them twice in 27 days - was postponed due to fog.
Record: P5, W4, D1, L0, F10, A4

Results: 0-0 Cardiff A, 2-0 Leeds H, 3-2 Blackburn A, 2-1 Birmingham A, 3-0 QPR H
League Position at End of Month: 2nd