The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By An­drew Brook

WHEN Chris Hughton steered New­cas­tle to the Cham­pi­onship ti­tle, he did so with a side ex­pected to stroll clear.

Hughton’s Brighton are much-less fan­cied, but they are per­form­ing like favourites – as proven once more against Hull City.

Tomer Hemed’s early goal was enough to de­feat the Tigers, who sat sec­ond at kick-off, and lift the Seag­ulls four points clear at the top.

Hughton, how­ever, re­fuses to al­ter his mod­est pre-sea­son tar­get. He said: “We won’t change what we said at the start of the sea­son where we said that we’d like to see our­selves at least chal­leng­ing to go up, push­ing for the top six. That is still the same.

“Of course you want to an­tic­i­pate that you’ll be bet­ter than last sea­son, be­cause we fin­ished in 20th place, but I couldn’t have en­vis­aged a start like this and I don’t think you can.

“Three of the games we’ve had could have gone ei­ther way. At the mo­ment the mar­gins are go­ing our way. We’re still only in Septem­ber and we have 40 league games to go. At some stage we will have dif­fi­cult times. My job will al­ways be to tem­per down ex­pec­ta­tions.

“We’re lucky we haven’t had any in­juries, which gives us a good squad and a lot of bod­ies to pick from. At the mo­ment we cer­tainly have a bet­ter bench than this time last sea­son.We wanted to get to this stage, where we have op­tions.”

Brighton made a rapid start, blitz­ing Hull’s left. Midfielder Sam Clu­cas lined up at left-back for the Tigers with the os­ten­si­ble left-midfielder Mo­hamed Di­ame play­ing very nar­row, leav­ing to­ken drifts wide by Abel Her­nan­dez and Chuba Akpom as Clu­cas’ only pro­tec­tion.

This was akin to Steve Bruce ask­ing Clu­cas to put his mouth over the end of a hosepipe and drink all its out­pour­ings. Even­tu­ally, against Liam Rose­nior and nat­u­rally-at­tack­ing Bruno, Clu­cas was not go­ing to be able to swal­low any more.

It took just five min­utes for this mo­ment to ar­rive. Dale Stephens drove through the chan­nel be­tween Clu­cas and Michael Daw­son and pow­ered a force­ful shot goal­wards. Allan McGre­gor pushed his ef­fort back into the dan­ger area, from where Sam Bal­dock mis­cued an at­tempted shot, only for Hemed to

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

WIN­NER: Tomer Hemed cel­e­brates the game’s only goal

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