Seagulls flying ahead of PNE trip

Tomer Hemed (right) celebrates scoring his side's opener against Leeds with Biram Kayal
Tomer Hemed (right) celebrates scoring his side's opener against Leeds with Biram Kayal
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Brighton come to Deepdale this weekend having given their automatic promotion chances a shot in the arm with successive 4-0 victories.

The Seagulls beat Bristol City and Leeds to move within a point of the top-two pace.

Those wins came on the back of a 4-1 defeat at Cardiff, an impressive response by Chris Hughton’s men.

Preston will be looking to put an end to Brighton’s sequence and maintain their outside chances of making a late run for the play-offs.

Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson said: “Brighton are a really consistent team, with good players and a good manager.

“They have been up near the top of the division all season.

“Two weeks ago they conceded four goals against Cardiff. It was a game in which they seemed to get punished for every mistake they made.

“Since then, they have responded really well with big victories at Bristol City and at home to Leeds.

“They were helped on Monday night by some poor performances from some of the Leeds team.

“You look at their goals and they didn’t have to do too much for them but saying that, they were ruthless.

“Brighton have some really good options up front, with players like Bobby Zamora and James Wilson sat on the bench.

“They are up there in the promotion race on merit and I think they have a good chance of automatic promotion.”

Hughton’s men were unbeaten for the first 21 league games of the season, a run which stretched until the week before Christmas.

North End’s goalless draw at the Amex Stadium came in that run.

Three more defeats and a draw followed that first loss at Middlesbrough.

But they have bounced back, with the Cardiff loss their only reverse in the last eight matches.

On target twice for them against Leeds was top scorer Tomer Hemed.

The Israeli striker has found the net 11 times since his summer move from Spanish side Almeria.

Five of those have come in the last six matches.

Albion boss Hughton said: “I’m really delighted for Tomer. His fortunes have turned and he’s getting some goals for us. Long may that continue.

“He is a lad that really wants to do well and he continued to work hard for the team through his barren period.

“That’s why generally you keep faith with somebody. When you have options it’s difficult – they are tough decisions.”

Reflecting on his side’s form of late, Hughton said: “At the moment we look like we can score goals, but at the base of that is two clean sheets and a very good reaction to a disappointing defeat at Cardiff.

“The first half against Leeds was probably the best we have produced here.

“We are a side that have not been big goal scorers this season although we have threatened, particularly in the first part of the season.

“I felt that some of our play was really good, especially at the Amex, but we didn’t have the goals to show for it.”