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2015-16 Season Review Part One

If you'd have said at the start of the 2015-16 season that Brighton and Hove Albion would end up just two goals shy of automatic promotion to the Premier League, then you would have been locked up in a secure mental institute very quickly.

But that is exactly what happened - with the traditional play off semi final heart break being thrown in for good measure. Chris Hughton's side - and remember, this was a team and manager who survived relegation the previous year purely on default and could not score a goal for love nor money - ended up scoring more goals than any other team in the division and losing a record low number of games across the league campaign.

All in all, this turned out to be one of the most memorable campaigns of recent memory even if by the end our luck appeared to have run out with Sheffield Wednesday triumphing to go onto Wembley where they eventually lost to Hull City in the play off final.

Sit back and enjoy as we go through all the highs and the very few lows that 2015-16 had to offer...

Pre-Season 2015
The previous two summer transfer windows had seen the Albion leave their business very late, effectively throwing away up to 15 points before the squad was sorted in September and being reluctant to spend anything on anyone vaguely good. So we all rejoiced as this policy seemed to go out of the window for 2015-16. Before the opening game of the league campaign Liam Rosenior, Tomer Hemed, Gaetan Bong and Niki Maenpaa were all in place. The excitement levels went through the roof four days before the season kicked off when Bobby Zamora returned to the club 13 years after departing, although we wouldn't see him on the pitch until the end of August. If this signing players early idea was an alien concept, then even more incredible was that we didn't actually sell anyone either. Admittedly, players from a side that escaped relegation by the skin of it's teeth aren't in high demand but Fulham were one of several sides sniffing around Lewis Dunk with a best offer of 5m being rejected. The pre-season friendly schedule was largely full of positive results as the Albion beat Swiss side FC Myerin 6-1 in Geneva, drew 0-0 with Lewes, beat Crawley Town 3-0, lost 1-0 away at a very cold Aberdeen despite it being the height of "summer", came from behind to beat Gillingham 1-0 and then defeated two-time Europa League champions Sevilla 1-0 at the Amex - the only English team to manage the feat in the season.  
August 2015
Whatever Kazenga LuaLua was on in August, we want some. The flying winger scored the only goal in the season opener as Nottingham Forest were beaten 1-0 and then repeated the trick in a 1-0 COCup win at Southend. Uwe Hunemeier and Jamie Murphy arrived for seven figure fees before the trip to Fulham in which Tomer Hemed's 89th minute penalty secured a 2-1 win. A third away game in a row saw a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield with Beram Kayal scoring, after which another defender arrived in the form of Connor Goldson. It wasn't looking good for Lewis Dunk's future at that point, but much to everyone's surprise the club smashed the wage structure to entice Dunk into a new deal. LuaLua netted the only goal at home to Blackburn on a day that will be forever remembered for events just down the A27 at Shoreham. The COCup journey ended at Walsall in a 2-1 defeat with Chris O'Grady posing a very real threat to the International Space Station with a missed penalty and the month ended with a real statement - a 3-2 win at highly fancied Ipswich thanks to a Hemed brace and another from LuaLua to end the month top.
Record: P7, W5, D1, L1, F10, A5

Results: 1-0 Nottingham Forest H, 1-0 Southend A, 2-1 Fulham A, 1-1 Huddersfield A, 1-0 Blackburn H, 1-2 Walsall A, 3-2 Ipswich A
League Position at End of Month: 1st
September 2015
An emotional tribute was held out before the visit of Hull City to all those who were killed the previous month in the Shoreham Air Disaster including Albion groundsman Matthew Grimstone and a member of the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund team, Jacob Schilt. The players got the job done on the pitch on a tough day for everyone at the club with a 1-0 win through Tomer Hemed. Three days later and Steve Evans had to console himself with a pie or 13 as Hemed and Dale Stephens ensured his Rotherham United team were beaten 2-1 at The Amex. The temperature was boiling at Molineux but the action was nowhere near as hot as the Albion and Wolves played out a 0-0 bore draw with a first half penalty miss from Hemed proving to be costly. Another seven figure signing in Elvis Manu made his debut that day and promptly set a record for time spent in an offside position which was a sign of things to come. Stephens and Jamie Murphy had seemingly put us on course to win at struggling Bolton at 2-0 up, but the struggling Trotters fought back to draw 2-2 with a 94th minute equaliser after Murphy saw red. September ended with Brighton four points clear at the top of the pile and still unbeaten.
Record: P4, W2, D2, L0, F5, A3

Results: 1-0 Hull H, 2-1 Rotherham H, 0-0 Wolves A, 2-2 Bolton A
League Position at End of Month: 1st
October 2015
We may have been unbeaten going into the third month of the season but that would surely all change when the Curse of October reared its ugly head. You had to go back to 2010 to find the last time the Albion won in October and a David Marshall inspired performance ensured it continued as Cardiff left the Amex with a 1-1 draw. It looked like it would be another winless October day at Elland Road as the game ticked into the 89th minute at 1-1, until Bobby Zamora popped up with a late winner for his first goal since returning to the club. Curse broken, number 25 back on the scoresheet. What a time to be alive! Zamora scored again three days later along with Sam Baldock against his former club as Bristol City were vanquished 2-1. Beram Kayal and Dale Stephens importance to the cause were highlighted as without them, we laboured to a 0-0 draw at home to Preston. That was followed by another draw at Reading, this time 1-1 as Jamie Murphy's opener was cancelled out when Matej Vydra pounced on a rare error from David Stockdale. We remained top but the lead was down to two points.
Record: P5, W2, D3, L0, F6, A4

Results: 1-1 Cardiff H, 2-1 Leeds A, 2-1 Bristol City H, 0-0 Preston H, 1-1 Reading A
League Position at End of Month: 1st
November 2015
The Curse of October was gone, now could the Curse of Hillsborough follow it? Well, no. We remained winless at Sheffield Wednesday as November kicked off with a 0-0 draw. Whatever Kazenga LuaLua had taken at the start of the season had obviously been administered to Solly March as he embarked on a ridiculous run of form, scoring in a 2-1 win against McDons along with Jamie Murphy. All the goals in the top of the table clash at Burnley which was rather helpfully rearranged for a Sunday lunchtime came in the first five minutes with Bobby Zamora netting for the Albion and it was March and Zamora who scored in a 2-1 win at home to Birmingham as the Albion equalled QPR's record of going 19 games unbeaten at the start of the season, returning to the top of the table. There was no resting on the laurels either as Chris Hughton made his first foray into the loan market to bring in Rajiv van La Parra from Wolves and highly rated striker James Wilson from Manchester United. But there was no sign of a left back arriving, a concern with Liam Rosenior and Gaetan Bong both on the sidelines.
Record: P4, W2, D2, L0, F5, A3

Results: 0-0 Sheff Wed A, 2-1 McDons H, 1-1 Burnley A, 2-1 Birmingham H
League Position at End of Month: 1st
December 2015
It looked highly unlikely that Brighton would be overtaking QPR's record start to a season of 19 games unbeaten as struggling Charlton stormed into a 2-0 lead at half time at the Amex. But a debut strike from James Wilson and goals from Bobby Zamora and Tomer Hemed ensured a 3-2 win and 20 games unbeaten. Wilson and Rajiv van La Parra scored in a 2-2 draw at Derby which was overshadowed by Solly March receiving a season ending injury. A 2-0 lead at QPR was squandered three days later after Lewis Dunk decided he didn't fancy three points at Loftus Road and so got himself sent off for a totally ridiculous tackle. First met second at the Amex when Middlesbrough visited but they proved to be too good for the Albion, winning 3-0 to bring to an end that remarkable 22 games without defeat in the league. That was the beginning of a mini slump over the festive period and the start of January as only a David Stockdale masterclass earned a point in a 0-0 draw away at Brentford and then Ipswich left town with a 1-0 win, leaving Brighton sitting fourth in the table as 2015 turned into 2016.
Record: P6, W1, D3, L2, F7, A9

Results: 3-2 Charlton H, 2-2 Derby A, 2-2 QPR A, 0-3 Middlesbrough H, 0-0 Brentford A, 0-1 Ipswich H
League Position at End of Month: 4th