Craig Mackail-Smith eyes & Brighton Hove Albion return

Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith is hopeful he has fully recovered from the hamstring injury that has ruled him out of their last three games.

The 28-year-old has scored six goals in seven appearances this season.

He told BBC Sussex: "It's difficult because I was enjoying my football so much and free-scoring.

"It stopped me in my tracks but these things happen. Maybe it was the time to get myself completely right so it doesn't happen again this season."

The former Peterborough striker added: "I'm gutted not to be involved but the international break has come perfectly for me to get fit and ready for the games that are coming up."

He had scored six goals in four games before suffering the injury in the 2-1 victory away to Millwall.

The Scotland international's form in the new campaign is in stark contrast to his first year with the Seagulls, when he admitted his frustration with scoring just 10 goals.

"I think we're a lot more attacking [this season]," he continued.

"We've brought in some good players like Andrew Crofts while Bruno and Wayne Bridge get forward well from right-back and left-back.

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As a team we have improved massively. We have nothing to fear from these games

Craig Mackail-Smith on Brighton's upcoming fixtures

"Crofty drives into the box and gets the ball forward as quick as possible. It's something we missed last season.

"We're creating more opportunities and we're throwing caution to the wind a little bit more, looking to score that first goal."

Brighton currently lie fifth in the Championship table, four points behind leaders Cardiff City.

Mackail-Smith believes their next next four games, which see them play Middlesbrough, Leicester, Blackpool and Leeds - four sides in the top 10 - will be a crucial period in their challenge for promotion.

"It's going to be a big part of shaping our season," Mackail-Smith said.

"They're going to be tough games but as a team we have improved massively.

"The way teams set up against us shows how much we have come on and how much people fear us.

"We're pretty capable of getting results and are excited to get going."