brighton logo Player of the Month - December 2016

You know you've had a good month when a Champions League winning manager is having to resort to mind games to try and unsettle you, and that is exactly what happened as Brighton and Hove Albion climbed to the top of the Championship table in December.

Rafa Benitez felt the need to come out and say the pressure was all on the Albion now as leaders. Not that Chris Hughton and his men were feeling any of it as they remained unbeaten in the final month of a truly memorable 2016.

Just two points were dropped away at Cardiff with home wins over The Leeds United and Queens Park Rangers. They say the sign of a good side is when you don't play well and get results and that is exactly what happened in the two away games against Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City with the trip to St Andrews being particularly memorable for Glenn Murray's last minute heroics.

The fact that the top three ended up coming exclusively from the back line says everything about what December's success was built on...

December 2016 Player of the Month -  David Stockdale (28.41% of the vote)
Brighton and Hove Albion may not have lost a game in the month of December but they weren't outstanding either as shown by a goalkeeper picking up the Player of the Month award. His three clean sheets came relatively trouble free but it was in the scrappy away wins where he really proved his worth to the side, keeping the Albion in the games away at Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City which allowed for the late drama of vital winners. In those games, his performances earned us four more points than we probably had any right to secure.
Played 5 (5 starts). Scored 0.
Second: Lewis Dunk (25% of the vote)
The centre back appeared in the top three again for the fourth month out of five so far this season. Suffered some difficult moments away at Birmingham and Blackburn but once again he was part of arguably the best centre back partnership in the division.
Third: Shane Duffy (16.48% of the vote)
And in third was the other half of that centre back partnership. It was another excellent month for the Albion's record signing and he even managed to notch his first goal for the club against his former club Blackburn Rovers. What a sweet moment that must have been.

The contenders:
Sam Baldock - November's Player of the Month started every game in December and although he didn't have quite the same scoring spree with just one goal notched - a screamer against QPR - he continues to be a vital piece of the front line.
Shane Duffy - Part of a defence that secured three clean sheets, he also proved his worth up the other end with his first Brighton goal in the 3-2 win over former club Blackburn Rovers who it looks like we committed daylight robbery on in only giving them 4m for the Irishman.
Lewis Dunk - Him and Duffy are easily the best centre back partnership in the league as they secured another three clean sheets for their collection. Had some difficult moments away at Blackburn and Birmingham but passed the tests with flying colours.
Anthony Knockaert - After a relatively quiet November which was understandable given the sad death of his father, the Frenchmen was back to somewhere near his flying best as goals away at Birmingham and at home to QPR proved.
Solly March - There were questions about how a year out would play on the career of the England under 21 winger. The answer appears to be it hasn't made a jot of difference, as proven in particular with his game changing sub appearance at Birmingham.
Glenn Murray - Rested at Blackburn, that inspired him to break his away goal hoodoo from the bench. He grabbed another three across the month to maintain his position towards the head of the divisions top scorers while that Birmingham winner will live long in the memory.
Dale Stephens - After a difficult start to the season, the midfielder is no longer playing like a man who is out of contract at the end of the season as he was back to his best of last season in December. Included scoring a vital goal at Blackburn.
David Stockdale - While he wasn't worked particularly hard for any of his clean sheets, his performances at both Blackburn and in particular Birmingham were absolutely vital in ensuring the Albion picked up wins from two tough away games.