This weekend sees Bolton Wanderers make the 540 mile round trip to Brighton where the Whites will take on Brighton & Hove Albion at the Falmer Stadium (AKA the Amex). The game marks only the 15th time that the clubs have met, with Wanderers currently having the slight edge with five wins along with five draws and a four defeats.
The clubs first met in 1907, with Bolton coming out on top 3-1 that day. Our games against Brighton last season which yielded a 1-1 away draw and a 1-0 home win were the first in almost 20 years. Goals from David Ngog and Marcos Alonso secured the draw and win respectively.
Brighton have begun the season in reasonable form, dealing well with the acrimonious departure of previous manager Gustavo Poyet following last season's Play-Off heartbreak against bitter rivals Crystal Palace. The new manager is Oscar Garcia, a former Barcelona midfielder and ex-Barcelona ‘B' coach who took over from Poyet in the summer. Garcia had been in charge of Israeli side Maccabi Tel-Aviv before arriving at Brighton.
Since his arrival, Garcia has overseen a reasonably quiet revolution, but that is perhaps more to do with him not wishing to tinker too much with a side that has been very successful in recent years. Incoming transfers this summer included former England centre-half Matthew Upson from Stoke City, Dutchman Kemy Agustien from Swansea City, Stephen Ward on loan from Wolves, and of course Keith Andrews on loan from Bolton Wanderers. The Irishman failed to convince the Wanderers crowd of his usefulness, and he was swiftly shipped out when the opportunity arose for Wanderers to re-sign Jay Spearing. Their most notable sale of the summer was to see experienced Spanish winger Vicente who left as his contract expired, and with barely a kind word to say about his time in England.
An unbeaten pre-season saw Brighton defeat notable opposition in La Liga sides Getafe and Sporting Gijon, as well as comfortable wins over Crawley Town and Whitehawk. They began their league campaign with successive defeats to Leeds United and Derby County, though then in turn defeated Birmingham City and Burnley before four successive draws against Millwall and title hopefuls Reading and QPR. Brighton were knocked out of the League Cup in the first round at home to Newport County in a shock result back in August.
Star man in Brighton's ranks is Argentinian striker Leonard Ulloa, whom Brighton signed from La Liga side Almeria in January 2013 and who has gone on to score 13 goals in just 21 appearances, making himself a vital and dangerous opponent. Ulloa's arrival has somewhat compensated for the absence of club record signing Craig Mackail-Smith who has barely featured in the last year due to a series of injuries. Fortunately for Bolton, Ulloa is suspended this weekend (having missed one match already with two more to come) after picking up a red card in Brighton's 0-0 draw against Reading last weekend.
It's still going to be tough.
Last Five Meetings
25.01.1992 - Bolton Wanderers 2 v 1 Brighton (Andy Walker, Tony Philliskirk)
22.08.1992 - Brighton 2 v 1 Bolton Wanderers (Andy Walker)
30.01.1993 - Bolton Wanderers 0 v 1 Brighton
24.11.2012 - Brighton 1 v 1 Bolton Wanderers (David Ngog)
09.03.2013 - Bolton Wanderers 1 v 0 Brighton (Marcos Alonso)
Head: Brighton 3 v 0 Bolton Wanderers
Heart : Brighton 0 v 25 Bolton Wanderers
A really tough game. Make no bones about it. I would absolutely 100% snap anyone's hand off for a point at this stage. Brighton might not have made the most solid start ever, but then again compared to us they're positively flying. I expect Dougie to take a negative approach and pack the midfield for this one, much as he has done lately in our home games!