Fulham’s dreary defeat to Burnley on Monday evening confirmed The Cottagers’ stay in the Premier League would be exceedingly brief once more as they followed the paths of Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion to the Championship.
After a season of uncertainty, and with the fear of relegation plaguing the minds of all those associated with Brighton & Hove Albion, the trauma and tension of a near eight months of football was relieved.
Now, with their Premier League status secured and a mere three fixtures remaining, Neal Maupay’s needless red card following Sunday’s defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers should open the door for the likes of Andi Zeqiri and Percy Tau as they eye a starting place in Graham Potter’s side.
A towering, thumping header from captain Lewis Dunk presented Brighton with an early lead on Sunday, before the very same centre halve would receive his marching orders soon after the restart for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity by bringing Fabio Silva down to the ground.
With a now porous backline, Adama Traore levelled the scores after combining crisply with Silva in the box, before more faults in the defence allowed Morgan Gibbs-White to drive the ball into the far corner in the dying minutes to secure all three points for the hosts.
A season of frustration
The feisty Maupay received a straight red card for apparent dissent towards referee Jonathan Moss after the final whistle, paving the way for potential first-team opportunities for the small cluster of players on the cusp of breaking into the starting eleven.
The feeling of ignominy was further instilled following his sending off - a reckless outburst capping a season of relative mediocrity for the French forward who has found life in the Premier League increasingly challenging. A season of spurned chances, combined with his fiery attitude has led to increased frustration which erupted sourly on Sunday afternoon.
Options from the bench
A three-match suspension will signal an early curtailment to the season for Maupay but, for Potter at least, there are adept options waiting for him. The most rational, like-for-like option is Switzerland Under-21 international, Zeqiri, who last started for The Seagulls in the FA Cup Quarter-final defeat to Leicester City in February.
Just 21 years of age, Zeqiri signed for £3.5 million last October after a breakout season with Swiss Super League side, Lausanne. Perhaps a little too left-footed, the forward’s versatility and ability to ghost past opponents does indeed demonstrate his attacking prowess. With limited appearances, the Swiss international awaits his first Brighton goal but, with safety a guarantee, there may be further, nearby opportunities on the horizon.
Same, too, for Tau who, having been at the club for a considerable period of time, has played the majority of his recent football in Belgium, having been sent out on loan to St. Gilloise, Club Brugge and, most recently, Anderlecht. Since his return from the Belgian capital in January, the South African international was an impressive, shining light from the narrow defeat to Manchester City at the Ethiad Stadium in January.
Tau was directly involved in a goal every 130 minutes in his two-and-a-half seasons in Belgium, according to The Times. His domestic success is replicated at international level, where he has found the net on thirteen occasions in thirty appearances.
Success, however, has been at a premium in Sussex. The swift forward has spent much of his recall on the bench which, for a side who have been far from ruthless in front of goal, may come as a slight surprise
What lies ahead
With a gaping hole in the forward positions, there lies an opportunity for one of these out-of-favour frontmen as Potter prepares his squad for the upcoming, Saturday evening fixture with West Ham United at the AMEX. A contest with little importance for the hosts, but is a pivotal clash for David Moyes’ side as they seek a place in European football next season.