Ian Hart: The biggest 180 minutes in Albion's history?

Back to winning ways for the Albion with an impressive and comprehensive 2-0 win at Barnsley, in what was Chris Hughton's 100th game in charge.

It was a key three points given that Huddersfield Town’s Championship winning streak continues, with the gap between second and third in the division returning to four points. Next up, it’s an Amex double with back-to-back home games against Reading and Newcastle respectively.

Are these two games arguably the most important consecutive 180 minutes in the club’s history?

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I would say yes, four or six points for the Albion could see them top the division this time next week and see the Premier League dream move closer to becoming a reality.

On the flip side, while back to back defeats would be a setback it wouldn’t mark the end of the campaign, the same could be said for a couple of draws. Whatever the results, it’s all very exciting.

Despite live television coverage in both games, such is the importance of both matches, consecutive near Amex sellouts look likely. With an unbelievable 60,000-plus watching the Albion over two home games, it’s a far cry from 1,500 watching the Seagulls at their Gillingham ‘home’ less than 20 years ago.

In my near 44 years watching the club, the level of excitement and anticipation has only been matched on a small number of occasions. A very good friend and Albion fan stated on Saturday night he’d be happy with two draws, and while avoiding defeat is key, I still think at least one win over either game is paramount.

I’m going to go for the four point return, I think we will see off Reading and not lose to Newcastle. One thing is for sure, it certainly beats taking on Leyton Orient in deepest, darkest Kent.

“Piegate” and the resulting departure of Wayne Shaw from Sutton United, while being highly amusing, typifies and highlights the double standards we have in sport and society.

Some sports have never recovered from the loss of tobacco advertising revenue, as it decreed that this form of sponsorship, along with that of alcohol branding, was potentially damaging to sections of the population.

Yet it’s deemed that partnerships between sport and the betting companies are fine, despite the fact that gambling addictions are equally as harmful to individuals as cigarettes and alcohol.

For his part, Shaw has been foolish but, in my opinion, was not totally responsible for the whole saga. First and foremost, Sutton United changing their shirt sponsorship for the Arsenal game to a betting company, almost set the scene. That was then compounded by the pie-odds being quoted in an advert in a national newspaper.

There’s question marks over the BBC as well. Given the much-quoted and publicised odds, with their strict compliance regulations, why did they keep the camera on Shaw eating? If he’d streaked instead, there would have been a TV blackout!

While in some ways it is a storm in a teacup, it also highlights that when as a sport you lay down with the betting dogs, you will ultimately end up getting fleas.

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