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2015-16 Season Review Part Two

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...

January 2016
For some people, Dry January is when you don't drink for a month. For Brighton and Hove Albion, Dry January was attempting not to score a goal. We managed it for the first three games - a 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves with James Wilson being sick on the pitch, a 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Hull and an appalling 2-0 defeat away at Rotherham. That made it six games without a goal when you threw in the end of December, a run that was halted by Bobby Zamora netting in a 1-0 win away at Blackburn. The veteran striker was at it again a week later as Huddersfield were vanquished 2-1 with Wilson the other name on the scoresheet. We'd become accustomed to signing even more tripe in January than we normally do in the summer over recent seasons but again a change of attitude was evidenced with Anthony Knockaert and Jiri Skalak arriving for seven figure fees and Liam Ridgewell and Steve Sidwell coming in on loan. All four made an impact with the two permanent signings proving to be two of our best players in the second half of the season as a real push for promotion got underway.
Record: P5, W2, D0, L3, F3, A5

Results: 0-1 Wolves H, 0-1 Hull A, 0-2 Rotherham A, 1-0 Blackburn A,   1-0 Huddersfield H
League Position at End of Month: 3rd
February 2016
As January turned into February, the Albion went from a team that couldn't score on the Reeperbahn to one you'd back to score in a Nunnery. The goals rained in throughout the month. It began with a 3-0 win over Brentford with Anthony Knockaert, Tomer Hemed and Jamie Murphy scoring and that was followed by a 3-2 win over Bolton - Murphy and Hemed again scoring along with Beram Kayal as Brighton twice came from behind against Neil Lennon's strugglers. A battling 0-0 draw at fellow promotion chasers Hull was followed by a rare Chris Hughton error as he rested Kayal and Hemed and we were duly destroyed 4-1 at Cardiff. Little did we know at the time that that defeat in the wind and rain of south Wales would be our last of the regular league season. The response was instant with a 4-0 win at inform Bristol City following three days later thanks to Murphy, Hemed, Sam Baldock and a fantastic own goal from Mark Little and Leeds United were vanquished by the same scoreline, Hemed grabbing a brace along with a Lewis Dunk finish and another own goal, this time from Liam Cooper.
Record: P6, W4, D1, L1, F15, A7

Results: 3-0 Brentford H, 3-2 Bolton H, 0-0 Hull A, 1-4 Cardiff A, 4-0 Bristol City A, 4-0 Leeds H
League Position at End of Month: 3rd
March 2016
While February was a goal fest, the first team games on March bought back memories of those dark days of January with two 0-0 draws against other sides with ambitions on the top six. The stalemate away at Preston was boring enough without the supremely negative decision to throw on Steve Sidwell for the last five minutes rather than Bobby Zamora to go for the win. But worse was to come when Sheffield Wednesday visited The Amex three days later, Beram Kayal was rested again and once again in the talismanic midfielders absence the Albion were poor, this time failing to register a shot on target as another bore draw was played out. A week later and a much better performance saw James Wilson net in a 1-0 home win over Reading and then came one of the defining moments of the season. Over 7,000 fans made the journey to MK Dons and were treated to a battling display as the Albion ran out 2-1 winners. Tomer Hemed scored twice after being introduced from the bench but the real drama came in the last minute when Carl Baker missed a penalty; the three points sending Brighton back into the automatic places with eight games remaining.
Record: P4, W2, D0, L2, F3, A1

Results: 0-0 Preston A, 0-0 Sheff Wed H, 1-0 Reading H, 2-1 McDons A
League Position at End of Month: 2nd
April 2016
First met second to kick off April when Burnley visited The Amex. Brighton looked like they had three massive points wrapped up as Dale Stephens and Anthony Knockaert had the game poised at 2-1 with minutes to go. The Clarets had already been denied a goal despite the ball being three feet over the line so it looked like lady luck would ensure it was the Albion's day, only for a 90th minute equaliser from Michael Keane stole a point. The teams response to that? Win every other game in April, of course. There was a 2-1 win at Birmingham, Forest were beaten by the same scoreline thanks to Steve Sidwell's injury time winner before Fulham were hammed 5-0. Tomer Hemed netted a hat-trick with Bruno Anthony Knockaert also on target. QPR were next in line for a hammering, this one 4-0 with Knockaert scoring twice, the goal of the season from Jiri Skalak and another from Connor Goldson. The month ended with a 3-1 win at that happiest of hunting grounds, The Valley, leaving the Albion knowing two wins from their last two games would secure automatic promotion to Premier League.
Record: P6, W5, D1, L0, F20, A8

Results: 2-2 Burnley H, 2-1 Birmingham A, 2-1 Nottingham Forest A, 5-0 Fulham H, 4-0 QPR H, 3-1 Charlton A
League Position at End of Month: 3rd
May 2016
Brighton had just one win in 10 meetings with the rest of the top six coming into May and there was no improvement on that record as the promotion dream coming to an end. Beating Derby at home and Middlesbrough away would have secured automatic promotion but both games ended in 1-1 draws. James Wilson netted a late equaliser against the Rams after another moment of madness from Lewis Dunk as he was dismissed for a rash tackle. At a rocking Riverside, the Albion were on top when Dale Stephens saw red for leaving a bullet hole wound in Gaston Ramirez's leg which was enough to convince Mike Dean to send him to the stands just five minutes after he'd equalised. That meant the play offs for the third time in four seasons and a meeting Sheffield Wednesday. We lost four players to injury over the 90 minutes and yhat the game finished only 2-0 with just the 10 Seagulls left walking was testament to the fighting spirit of the side. And despite the best atmosphere The Amex has seen, we couldn't quite get the job done, drawing the second leg 1-1 to slip out 3-1 on aggregate.
Record: P6, W5, D1, L0, F20, A8

Results: 1-1 Derby H, 1-1 Middlesbrough A, 0-2 Sheff Wed A, 1-1 Sheff Wed H
League Position at End of Month: 3rd
Two goals from the Premier League
Two goals. That was all that stood between Brighton and Hove Albion and the Premier League. And despite the heartbreak of the play off semi final defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, 2015-16 represented the best season the club have had in 33 years as well as being one of the most memorable we can recall. In any other season, 89 points would normally be enough to see you promoted - we were just extremely unlucky that the one year we managed to get to that total, there were two sides who were even better than us. But the most remarkable thing about the side that carried the Albion so close to the top flight dream is that there is not one stand out individual in it. Sure, the likes of Beram Kayal, Bruno, David Stockdale, Tomer Hemed and Anthony Knockaert had outstanding seasons but, more than anything else, this was a team effort. What Chris Hughton did - and it was enough to rightly earn him the Championship Manager of the Year award - was not only improve the squad he had beyond all recognition with some canny signings but he also created a team. Everyone knew their roles, everyone knew what to do and everyone pulled together. Or #Together as the club would have us say. 2015-16 was full of triumph and tragedy with Shoreham being the moment that bought fans and players closer than they have ever been. Keep this squad together, a few signings in the right places and the future looks very bright.