Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 midfielder Max Sanders highlighted the team spirit that has helped Simon Rusk’s team challenge for the Premier League 2 Division 1 title with just three games to go.
The Seagulls find themselves four points behind league leaders Everton, following Monday night’s 2-2 draw against Blackburn Rovers, and Rusk’s team will end the campaign with fixtures against Swansea City, the Toffees and Chelsea.
Sanders captained the side to promotion in last season’s play-off final victory over Aston Villa, and the midfielder has been delighted by the continued progress his team-mates have made in the top tier.
He said, “At the start of the season, we were focused on not getting relegated. We were never thinking ‘let’s try and win the league’, but we’ve kept on winning and our team spirit has been good.
“We’ve only lost three games, and playing against the best teams in England has been really good. To be second in the league with a chance of winning the title, it’s great for us.
“But we need to take every game as it comes and continue doing what we’ve been doing, because that’s got us to where we are now.
“The coaching staff have constantly been implementing high standards and we all work off that.”
Sanders fired both goals against Rovers on his return to the side, and although he was disappointed to give away a two-goal lead, the 20-year-old enjoyed trying out a new position for the team.
“I played off the right wing, so it was a bit different for me. I spoke to Simon beforehand and he told me why — to get me further forward and have a bit more freedom.
“I know that I can score goals, but it’s obviously harder when you’re playing in defensive midfield.
“Having that bit of freedom definitely made a difference and I really enjoyed playing there.
“I’ve been playing central for the last few seasons, so I needed to adapt quickly. It was a hard pitch to play on, so it probably would have been difficult in there.
“Wherever I’m told to play, I’m happy to play there, and it was nice to try out a different position.”
The midfielder’s goals were his first in the Premier League 2 this season, and he spoke of his belief in his own ability to find the back of the net more often for the Seagulls.
“I’d never say I’ve been prolific in terms of quantity of goals, but I can definitely chip in. I’ve always scored a fair few goals in a season.
“I’ve got the ability to score goals, it’s just about getting myself into the right areas.
“You look for five to ten goals — but that’s obviously hard to do. Some seasons you may score more and others you’ll score less, but you have to set targets.
“Goals are a massive part of the game, and if you score goals you’re going to be wanted in the team to make an impact.”