Johnny Cantor: The gloves are off in the race for promotion

Will Albion fans be celebrating at the end of the season? Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Will Albion fans be celebrating at the end of the season? Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Well, it seems like the gloves are off in the race for the Premier League, with 42 goals scored in the 11 Championship games on Tuesday night.

Among the big-scoring games, there were late winning strikes from Albion’s promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Reading. Seagulls fans who watched the Birmingham or Fulham matches will know that Chris Hughton’s team have also benefitted from late goals this season.

Some teams just have a knack of scoring late. The Manchester United side of yesteryear under Sir Alex Ferguson was always credited with the ability to grab a goal from somewhere, whether it was Solskjaer or Yorke, Cole or Sheringham.

However, is it a really a knack? Of course not. There are key factors at work. The quality of the players is of course essential.

Those players also have to perform to their capabilities in high-pressure situations. If anything, that seems to have been highlighted once again by Arsenal with another failure in the Champions League.

There is of course fitness. In the Premier League there is not much between the sides but Leicester’s work-rate certainly doesn’t seem to be up to that of last year’s historic title-winning season.

In the Championship, there may be more disparity between the individual players but there is also something else at work that some pundits call a ‘winning mentality’. A will to win is another phrase.

So what actually is it? From the sidelines, I see it as another thing, focus. Focus on your individual game. Focus on your tactics. Focus on your team-mates. Focus on your opponents.

We all get distracted in modern life especially since the proliferation and intrusion of technology and social media.

Footballers are no different on the pitch, with several things capable of distracting them. Inevitably the fans of all promotion-chasing sides are nervous in the latter stages of matches and that can permeate on to the pitch.

Tensions grow as games go on. However, teams will be fully judged only in May.

The teams and of course the players who remain focussed until the final whistle and the final game will be successful.

Fifteen games remain for Brighton and Hove Albion. Like Storer, Buckley and Ulloa in the past, there may yet be another name remembered for a late goal in years to come.

In 1999, it was United’s Solskjaer who proved Gary Lineker wrong, for once, to beat the Germans after 90 minutes.

Could it go down to the wire for Seagulls fans this season? It’s certainly going to be interesting to see if someone can stay focussed, deliver a late goal, some marvellous drama and maybe, promotion.

You wouldn’t want it any other way would you ?

Johnny Cantor covers Brighton & Hove Albion as a commentator and reporter for BBC Sussex Sport.

Follow all the action, home or away, on BBC Sussex Sport or Twitter: @BBCSussexSport or @johnnycburger

To read more by Johnny Cantor, visit www.johnnycantor.com

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