Stephens sets sights on reaching 40 points

Dale Stephens in action against Huddersfield. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Dale Stephens in action against Huddersfield. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Midfielder Dale Stephens wants Brighton to hit the 40-point mark as quick as possible.

The Seagulls have picked up just one point from their past three Premier League matches and sit 13th in the table with 35 points from 32 games, seven points above the relegation zone.

Brighton travel to arch rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday and then finish their season with five matches against sides in the top seven. They play Tottenham, Burnley, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool and Stephens said: “The sooner you hit 40 points obviously the goals will change but we’ve not managed to do it yet and the first and only job we can do is get to that mark and do it as soon as possible.

“We looked at the games we had two or three games ago and said ‘look we need to obviously pick up more points’ and we’ve only managed to pick up a point in the last two and that’s been disappointing. We feel like we have still got a lot of work to do.”

Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield was Albion’s seventh at the Amex this season and asked if they can be looked back on as missed opportunities, Stephens said: “Perhaps. I think you can analyse the season and nit-pick throughout but I think generally we have played well at home and that is where we have picked up most of our points.

“We are still confident. We have home games to come in front of our fans and we can still get the points we need to be safe.

“It was obviously a disappointing result (against Huddersfield). Overall I think we edged it in chances over the game and with two one-on-ones we are quite disappointed that we’ve not converted them.”

Stephens admits the next six games will be some of the biggest of his career, with this his first season in the Premier League, and said: “I think everyone should see it like that as well. Personally it is the biggest level I have played at.

“I have enjoyed it so far this season. Everyone is looking forward to playing in this league next season but there is a lot of work to be done before then.”

Stephens returned to the Albion team on Saturday after missing three games with a hamstring injury.

He did day-long rehab sessions and spent time in an oxygen chamber to get back playing and said: “I did it (the injury) the week of training after the Arsenal game and it probably kept me out for longer than I wanted. It took a bit of time but it feels strong and I’m fit now.

“It was a problem with my hamstring overall. Whether it was muscular or neural, I don’t think we could quite put our finger on it. But we have done a lot of work over the last two weeks, morning and afternoon, I’ve worked hard to get fit for this game and thankfully I have come through unscathed.”

Albion head to Crystal Palace on Saturday four points and four places above the Eagles and Stephens, who scored in Brighton's FA Cup win against Palace in January, said: “It’s another big game for us. Both teams need points and it happens to be against our rivals.

“It doesn’t need any build up from me. It is going to be a good atmosphere, a good game for everybody and we know it is important we get three points.

“There are quite a few teams in and around us but we can only focus on ourselves and do what we can do to effect our league position. We’ll look forward to next week.”

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