Dale Stephens believes that December will be one of the biggest months of the season for Brighton & Hove Albion so far, with six matches in the space of 25 days.
The Seagulls face a hectic festive period, with upcoming games against promotion rivals Derby County and Middlesbrough, and Stephens challenged his team-mates to maintain their position as league leaders going into the New Year.
He said, “We’ve got a lot of games coming up in December and against some tough teams too.
“We can only focus on what we’ve got to do and approach in each game like we have done all season.
“We’ve still got a tough task to get us through to January in the position that we see ourselves in now, but we’re very excited about the challenge. It [the New Year] probably is the next milestone for us and we need to get to there and still be near the top of table.
“With the number of games we’ve got coming up and the opponents that we face, it’s definitely a difficult month, but we are relishing the opportunity to stay where we are.”
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Stephens spent two-and-a-half years with Saturday's opponents Charlton Athletic before joining the Albion, and he praised the club for the impact it has had on his career.
“A lot has changed there since I’ve joined Albion, but I still hold fond memories of that place.
“They gave me the opportunity to play and then ultimately the chance to play in the Championship, so I’m grateful for that opportunity.
“I feel like I’ve progressed physically and as a footballer since then.
“They’ve got their own problems down near the bottom of the league, but we can’t do much about that and can only focus on what’s going on here.”
The 26-year-old commented on the blow of losing Liam Rosenior until January, but says the recent acquisitions of Richie Towell, James Wilson and Rajiv van La Parra have helped raise the morale within the squad.
“We’ve lost some key players, but the lads we’ve signed in the last couple of weeks have come in and given everyone a boost. Obviously we lost Liam last week, but it gives someone an opportunity to stake their place in the team.
“It gives everyone encouragement when new players come in and it gives you a lift.
“We were probably thin on numbers with the injuries we’ve had recently, but the lads coming in shows what the club wants to achieve this year. It gives everyone a pick-me-up.”