Paul Newman: South Coast rivals set fair on journey out of the doldrums

The Football League Column: Brighton have enjoyed a wonderful year in Gus Poyet's first fullseason in charge

Southampton and Brighton are linked by more than just the A27 and M27. The two clubs, 60 miles apart along the South Coast, are both emerging from difficult times. Unless Southampton make a mess of their remaining four matches, each will be back playing in the Championship next season.

Brighton secured a place back in the game's second tier for the first time in five years last week. Southampton will guarantee their return after a two-year absence if they take 10 points from their last four fixtures, beginning with today's home match against Hartlepool. That will be followed by a visit on Saturday to Brentford, another mid-table side with little to play for, and matches against Plymouth Argyle and Walsall, who are both in the relegation zone.

Southampton moved into the second automatic promotion place on Saturday by becoming the first team to win at the Withdean Stadium in League One this season. Brighton, who had won 17 and drawn four of their previous home matches, were leading 1-0 until six minutes from time before 33-year-old David Connolly and the defender Jose Fonte scored the goals that took the Saints above Huddersfield on goal difference. Huddersfield, who are the only team with a realistic chance of overhauling Southampton, have three matches left: a visit to Brighton plus home fixtures against Dagenham & Redbridge and Brentford.

Brighton have enjoyed a wonderful year in Gus Poyet's first full season in charge. The Uruguayan succeeded Russell Slade, who was dismissed in November 2009 with the club just one place above the relegation zone. Poyet brought in several new players and saw the team to mid-table security. They have not looked back since going top of the table in September. Poyet's men have gone from strength to strength and pulled clear of their rivals with a remarkable run last month, winning all eight matches they played in March.

The 8,000-capacity Withdean Stadium, which has been the club's temporary home since 1999 following their departure from the Goldstone Ground, has been a fortress, though the club will be relieved to move back into a stadium of their own this summer. Brighton expect to sell all 22,500 tickets at the American Express Community Stadium on a regular basis next season.

If Southampton have spent less time in the doldrums than Brighton their fall from grace was arguably more dramatic. When they were relegated from the Premier League in 2005 it ended a run of 27 successive seasons in the top flight. They dropped another division four years later and were in danger of going out of business until Markus Liebherr, a German-born billionaire who had had no previous association with Southampton, bought the club.

The recruitment of Alan Pardew as manager sparked a revival last season which culminated in the club taking 44,000 supporters to Wembley as they claimed their first significant trophy for 34 years by winning the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Turning fortunes around in the league proved a harder task, but the foundations were laid. The campaign, nevertheless, started in turmoil. Liebherr died at the start of the season – his fortune, including the club, was passed on to his family – while Pardew was sacked after only three matches.

Within a fortnight he was replaced by Nigel Adkins, the Scunthorpe United manager. In mid-September Southampton were in the relegation zone after only one win in their first seven games. They have come good when it mattered, however, winning nine of their last 11 matches.

The victory at Brighton was all the sweeter given the current rivalry between the two clubs. When Brighton held Southampton to a goalless draw at St Mary's in November, Adkins was asked whether he expected the two teams to be contesting the title at the end of the season. "Well, if they can keep with us, maybe," he replied.

Brighton responded in kind on Saturday, with the front page of their match programme asking: "Can you keep up?" Poyet, meanwhile, who is proud of his team's passing game, had stirred the pot with some comments about Southampton's long-ball style. Adkins, nevertheless, had the last laugh with Fonte's 89th-minute winner, which could help ensure that the two clubs' rivalry will be renewed next season.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all