Chris Hughton: Brighton must deal with 'difficult' period in promotion race

Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton led former club Newcastle to the Championship title in 2009-10

Brighton boss Chris Hughton says his squad must handle a dip in form to sustain their automatic promotion challenge in the Championship.

The Seagulls were eight points clear of third place in early January but, after winning just three of their last seven, that gap has been cut to four points.

"By our standards of the season, it is a difficult period," Hughton said.

"You have got to go through these periods and it is about how you come through them."

Brighton have been in the top two since October, and were top of the table after beating Fulham on 2 January.

However, defeats at Preston and Huddersfield since then have seen the chasing pack close in on Albion, who still have a far superior goal difference to the sides below them.

Championship table

Hughton's side were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Ipswich on Tuesday, but the four sides in the play-off places were all victorious.

They have three tricky fixtures remaining in February - a visit to Barnsley on Saturday before hosting fourth-placed Reading and leaders Newcastle.

"We have to remember we are second in the division," the 58-year-old added to BBC Sussex.

"There are too many good sides that are pushing really hard at the top end, but we have to look after our own results.

"We mustn't get too carried away, and have to work hard to make sure we stay there."

Brighton 'must deal with pressure'

Albion fell short of winning promotion to the Premier League last season, finishing third in the table on goal difference and then being beaten in the play-off semi-finals by Sheffield Wednesday.

Midfielder Steve Sidwell has called for his team-mates to retain their composure during the run-in.

"Other teams can pick up points but as long as we do as well, that's fine," the 34-year-old said.

"When you are under pressure you have got to deliver. If you want to go up you need to deal with the pressure."

Steve Sidwell
Steve Sidwell joined Brighton on a permanent deal last summer after leaving Stoke

Sidwell is one of four Albion players to have won automatic promotion to the Premier League, winning the title with Reading in 2005-06, while Hughton led Newcastle to the Championship title in 2009-10.

"I've been there and done it and if I have to pass the experience on then that's what I'll do, but there is a time and place for that," Sidwell said.

"Nothing is given on a plate for you. These are the defining moments that matter and to be a part of it is what we are all here for.

"We have a group of players that can do it and it is just about making sure it happens."