Albion’s Pre-season In Review
Brighton & Hove Albion’s pre-season schedule came to a close after Friday evening’s 2-1 victory over FC Nantes, concluding a run of eight matches for Chris Hughton’s side in preparation for their 2018/19 Premier League campaign. Pre-season began with a training camp in Austria, and the Seagulls entered their first match of the summer against St Gallen with six days of training under their belts. Summer signing Bernardo came into the side for his first Albion start, but Hughton’s men went behind just before the break, as Nassim Ben Khalifa broke the deadlock for the hosts at Kybunpark. But Albion’s first goal of pre-season came in the 59th minute when Tomer Hemed headed home from Oliver Norwood’s corner, and the match in Switzerland finished 1-1 to give the Seagulls an unbeaten start. Crawley Town were the next opposition for Hughton’s team at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre - and Albion sealed a comfortable 3-0 victory against Harry Kewell’s side. Bernardo’s deflected effort from long range opened the scoring, before Hemed’s second goal of pre-season made it 2-0 - Bruno’s rabona cross was volleyed home by Markus Suttner at the back post to round off the scoring. Albion tasted defeat for the first time when they visited the Cherry Red Records Stadium one day later, as AFC Wimbledon raced into a 2-0 lead - and although Norwood dispatched from the penalty spot in the second half, it wasn’t enough for the Seagulls. Back-to-back 1-1 draws on the same day came a few days later, as Hughton’s side drew with Portsmouth at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, before sharing the same scoreline with Charlton Athletic at The Valley that evening. Anthony Knockaert’s header cancelled out Brett Pittman’s opener for Pompey on the south coast, and although Pascal Gross converted to give Albion the lead at The Valley, Naby Sarr replied late on for the Addicks. Next up was a visit to St Andrew’s to take on Championship opposition - and Albion found themselves behind in the 31st minute when Maikel Kieftenbeld picked out the top corner from 25 yards. A second defeat of pre-season looked likely, but new signing Yves Bissouma recused a draw for Albion in the dying stages of the game, as he riffled a ferocious free-kick home from the edge of the penalty area. The Seagulls then played their first of two games against French opposition - this time against OSC Nice at the Ligue 1 side’s training ground. Summer signings Florin Andone and Alireza Jahanbakhsh both made their first appearances for the club, but it was under-23 attacker Viktor Gyokeres who poked home the winning goal in a 1-0 victory for the Seagulls. Albion’s pre-season campaign concluded at the Amex Stadium eight days before the start of their first Premier League match against Watford at Vicarage Road. Hemed fired his third goal of pre-season to give Hughton’s team the lead against FC Nantes, before Gross doubled the lead shortly after the break, having exchanged passes with Hemed in the build up. Valentin Rongier replied for the visitors with ten minutes remaining, but it proved to be a winning end to Albion’s summer preparation, as Albion held on for a 2-1 win ahead of Saturday’s trip to Hertfordshire.