At his pre-match press conference yesterday, Chris Hughton looked ahead to the test posed by Leeds, provided an update on the fitness of Greg Halford and spoke of his delight at having greater competition for places upfront.
Clean bill of health from Saturday: “We’ve got no casualties at all from Saturday’s game which is good news and it’s just about making sure the players get rest and recover ahead of a tough game.
“Apart from the long-term ones, it’s Solly [March] and Greg Halford that won’t be available. Greg’s improving but he was very sore after the Sheffield Wednesday game, and he won’t be ready in time."
The challenge from Leeds: “I expect a tough test; they’re in good form - particularly away from home - and it’s one hell of an achievement to go away to the league leaders [Middlesbrough], as they did on the weekend and get a win. They were tested a lot there and they’ll certainly be in a confident mood at the moment. I would expect a very tough game, but that’s probably the same every single week at the moment. I just hope that the confidence we would have got from the goals and the three points at the weekend will turn the game in our favour.”
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Competition upfront: “What we definitely have got is good competition between the three of them [strikers] and it is about the one that can keep his form at a highest level. What it does do is give me options; particularly with Craig [Mackail-Smith] who’s a different type of player than the other two. Do I know who my best striker is at the moment? Well my best striker is the one that’s playing the best and in the team. It’s a good problem to have, but we scored four goals at the weekend and it would’ve been nice if one of our strikers had got on the scoresheet as well.”
Praise for David Stockdale: “When you are a goalkeeper, you are always going to be criticised because it’s the nature of that position. On the back of two clean sheets [against Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday], he made a really important penalty save at the weekend due to the timing of it. To do it particularly just before half-time was a big moment and I’m pleased for him.”
Taking the positives from Birmingham: “I was only focussing on the positives after the game on Saturday. To be able to score four goals was a real positive, especially in the manner in which we did it. I don’t think there was anybody that felt we didn’t deserve to win. Even if I look at recent weeks and the games we’ve played, like the ones we lost against Forest and Blackpool, the general opinion was that we didn’t deserve to lose either of those games. That shows that the margins are small and if we lose a game, we’re generally in with a chance and it can go either way. We just need to push those margins our way.”