The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEWS - By James Andrew

LEWIS Dunk has been Brighton’s rock at the back in their pro­mo­tion cam­paign – but the Seag­ulls skip­per is just as quick to praise those around him.

Chris Hughton’s troops head into to­day’s Cham­pi­onship fi­nale against As­ton Villa – where vic­tory would se­cure the ti­tle ahead of New­cas­tle – with 21 clean sheets from their 45 games.

And, while Dunk has been sin­gled out for his per­for­mances, he is ea­ger to pay trib­ute to fel­low cen­tre­halves Shane Duffy, 25, Con­nor Gold­son, 24, and Uwe Hune­meier, 31.

Dunk, 25, said: “We clicked as soon as he (Shane Duffy) came in. It took us a few games to get used to each other, be­cause we hadn’t played to­gether be­fore, but once those few games were out of the way I think we fed off each other re­ally well.

“We know each other’s games inside out. What my weak­nesses are, he’s good at, and what his weak­nesses are I’m good at. So, we bounce off each other and it’s a plea­sure to play with him.”

De­spite all the cel­e­bra­tions on the south coast this sea­son, the club were shocked by the news that Gold­son was ruled out for the sea­son in Fe­bru­ary af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with a heart is­sue. The for­mer Shrews­bury man re­quired pre­ven­ta­tive surgery af­ter the prob­lem was dis­cov­ered in rou­tine car­diac screen­ing by the club and hopes to re­turn for pre-sea­son. Dunk added: “I’m close to Con­nor and I couldn’t be­lieve it when he told me. I was in the ho­tel with him and it was a mas­sive shock. “He’s com­pleted his first jog and I was so proud to see him back out there. “I can’t wait for him to be back and avail­able for se­lec­tion. It will be amaz­ing for him and a mas­sive re­lief.” Af­ter hav­ing to bide his time on the side­lines, Huen­e­meier slot­ted into the Brighton de­fence seam­lessly and Dunk was again keen to ex­tol the Ger­man’s virtues.

He added: “He sat on the side­lines for so long, wait­ing for his op­por­tu­nity. He works so hard in train­ing ev­ery day. To be ready, like he has been, was un­be­liev­able and he’s been amaz­ing for us.”

Now he is in the big-time, Dunk hopes to catch Eng­land boss Gareth South­gate’s eye.

“Hope­fully I can show what I can do in the Premier League and fol­low in Michael Keane’s foot­steps and get the call-up like he did.”

Villa boss Steve Bruce has con­firmed that striker Jonathan Kod­jia will be out for up to six months with a bro­ken an­kle.

Bruce said: “Jonathan’s in­jury is dev­as­tat­ing news. They are telling me it’s three to four months, which prob­a­bly means the best part of six.

“We have been dealt a harsh blow but we wish him a speedy re­cov­ery.”

PRAISE: Brighton cap­tain Lewis Dunk

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