Baldock return could prove key for goal-hungry Seagulls

Jake Forster-Caskey has been one of the young plays who has impressed (Photograph: Paul Hazlewood)
Jake Forster-Caskey has been one of the young plays who has impressed (Photograph: Paul Hazlewood)

Sam Baldock is set to return - and not a moment too soon for the goal-shy Seagulls.

Sam Baldock is set to return to the Brighton and Hove Albion squad for the home game against Middlesbrough - and not a moment too soon for the goal-shy Seagulls.

The attacker has yet to hit top gear since arriving from Bristol City earlier in the season and has been suffering from a calf problem.

He should, however, be available for selection tomorrow afternoon and will be pushing for a starting spot, with Craig Mackail-Smith struggling with illness.

Brighton could certainly do with Baldock back in the team and firing on all cylinders. The Albion have chalked up an average of 17.5 shots per game - the second- highest rate in the Championship - but have found the net on just 10 occasions. Only three clubs have registered fewer goals in the division’s opening 11 games, including the bottom two of Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool.

HeadtoHeadClearly, then, it isn’t through a lack of attacking intent that the Albion have struggled to trouble the scorer, more a problem finishing chances which come their way. They have also, in fairness, come up against some inspired goalkeeping performances, although that excuse is one that supporters will only accept for so long. The supporters have so far overwhelmingly remained patient. But they are hungry for goals.

It is, then, important that Sami Hyypiä’s side start brightly against a Middlesbrough team with the third-best away record in the Championship.

The Teessiders have conceded just three goals on their travels in five games and have grown used to dominating possession away from home, averaging 54.3% of the ball.

If the Albion are to register a first league win since beating Bolton back on August 23, Baldock’s presence could be key.

One player who is definitely available for selection is Inigo Calderon, who has now served his suspension following his sending off against Burton Albion. Bruno, however, is likely to continue in the right back position after impressing in recent weeks.

ActionManJakeForsterCaskeyLewis Dunk should continue alongside Gordon Greer in central defence, with Greer no doubt full of confidence after getting the better of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski in Scotland’s recent hard-fought draw with Poland.

And Jake Forster-Caskey will hope to continue where he left off for England Under-21s, having played in both of the country’s European Championship play-off games with Croatia.

The midfielder was widely praised for his performances, not least for his disciplined and controlled use of the ball. Having played so well for England and with Andrew Crofts ruled out for the season, it is surely only fatigue which could prevent Forster- Caskey making the starting line- up tomorrow.

Fans will be hopeful of seeing more of the mercurial Paddy McCourt today after the creative midfielder sat out Northern Ireland's midweek fixture.

StatsMiddlesbrough will be without Damia Abella, who has been ruled out for the foreseeable future, but in Grant Leadbitter they boast one of the division’s form players.

MinutesThe midfielder has managed six goals and an assist already this season. Other threats will come from Spanish striker Kike, who has four league goals, and Albert Adomah.

Albion team news

Likely line-up: Stockdale, Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Bennett, Holla, Forster-Caskey, Gardner, Lua Lua, Teixeira, Baldock

Likely subs: Ankergren, Calderon, Hughes, Ince, McCourt, Colunga, O’Grady