FOR­GET THE BEACH YOU SEAG­ULLS!

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By John Wragg

AN­THONY Knock­aert set up a mas­sive Premier League pro­mo­tion party at the Amex Sta­dium to­mor­row.

Twenty-years af­ter they al­most went out of the Foot­ball League, the Seag­ulls are about to soar again.

It was Rob­bie Reinelt’s 62nd­minute equaliser at Here­ford on May 3 1997 that kept Brighton from non-league ob­scu­rity and now they are on the verge of join­ing the wealth­i­est league in world foot­ball. Knock­aert’s two goals in a con­trolled win over Wolves means vic­tory against strug­gling Wi­gan to­mor­row af­ter­noon will bring Manch­ester United, City, Chelsea, Ar­se­nal and all the other gi­ants of English foot­ball to the Amex.

Man­ager Chris Hughton is re­mind­ing ev­ery­one that it might not be math­e­mat­i­cally cer­tain, if Hud­der­s­field win at Derby on the same day, but with a goal dif­fer­ence in Brighton’s favour of plus 31 you can put money on it.

Brighton will be in the big time for the first time in 34 years.

In any case, Hughton would prob­a­bly rather get the ex­tra point on Fri­day night at Nor­wich, the club who sacked him and ended his per­sonal Premier Leacgue ca­reer three years ago.

Hud­der­s­field have to win all their re­main­ing five games to match the 92 points Brighton will have racked up if they add Wi­gan to their list of vic­tims.

“As a man­ager, and a group of play­ers, we shouldn’t think of Mon­day as be­ing the vic­tory that will get us up,” said Hughton.

“We all know that a win will all but math­e­mat­i­cally see us up, but I think it would be ir­re­spon­si­ble of my­self and a group of play­ers that have con­ducted them­selves well all sea­son to think like that.”

Brighton were not even aware of Hud­der­s­field’s late win over Pre­ston, pre­fer­ring to con­cen­trate on their own sit­u­a­tion.

“Sh­effield Wednes­day away was our best per­for­mance, but I think at this vi­tal stage against a good team and what it meant this was an out­stand­ing per­for­mance,” said Hughton of the win over Wolves.

There were 2,787 Brighton fans at Mo­lineux to see Knock­aert’s 14th and 15th goals of the sea­son – and you can bet Brighton beach will be empty to­mor­row as ev­ery­one crams into the Amex .

Knock­aert was voted the best player in the English Foot­ball League last week – and he showed why with goals just be­fore half­time and eight min­utes from time.

A 15th-minute drive from Tomer Hemed that smacked against the Wolves cross­bar would have set up Brighton nicely, had it been a few inches lower, but their per­for­mance was a lot bet­ter than when they were last in the Mid­lands.

A 3-0 de­feat at strug­gling Not­ting­ham For­est raised fears they might be in for another slump, like the one that stopped them get­ting di­rect pro­mo­tion last sea­son. But Houghton stayed calm and Brighton fought back with five wins ut of six to bring the con­fi­dence flood­ing back.

They swarmed all over Wolves and de­served their goal on the stroke of half-time. Knock­aert was given time and room to drive in a fine low ef­fort. Wolves did not re­act quickly enough, par­tic­u­larly cen­tral de­fender Kort­ney Hause, as he cut in from the right and keeper Andy Lon­er­gan ac­tu­ally spilled the ball in, al­low­ing the power of the shot to beat him. And Brighton clinched it when Glenn Mur­ray’s header al­lowed Knock­aert to beat the hap­less Andy Lon­er­gan. “If Brighton get the points and the re­sults then they de­serve it,” said Wolves boss Paul Lambert. “I don’t think Chris Hughton has got any­thing to prove in the top flight. He’s a re­ally good man­ager and, if they do go up, I’ll con­grat­u­late him.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

PARTY TIME: Brighton’s An­thony Knock­aert cel­e­brates scor­ing their sec­ond

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