Chris Hughton has admitted he is facing the toughest time of his managerial career as his Brighton side prepare to face Wolves on Saturday.
The Seagulls are now in a real scrap to the stay up after Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Cardiff left them just two points above the drop zone with five games left.
Brighton – beaten FA Cup semi-finalists like Wolves – have now lost five games in a row including the Cup, all without scoring, to plunge dangerously close to the relegation trapdoor.
Boss Hughton says he faces a critical time to drag his side clear of trouble.
“There’s no doubt if I look at our season it’s the most difficult time, more Saturday than Tuesday because that wasn’t like us,” he said.
“The level of club we are, we are not going to go through a season without difficult times and without challenges.
“Expectations rise a little bit but the reality is this is still only our second season (in the Premier League).
“There are some areas where it’s been difficult for us and players we’ve missed, but these are the challenges we have to look forward to.”
After Wolves, Brighton go to Tottenham before hosting Newcastle then play Arsenal away prior to entertaining Manchester City in their final game of the season.
Hughton denies feeling more pressure to win at Molineux because of arguably tougher matches to come.
“The pressure is it’s the next game. The next game is the best opportunity to get a result,” he said. “We will never go into any game against the top six feeling in any way we can’t get something.
“At the moment this game against Wolves is the most important one because it’s the next one.
“I’m definitely viewing it as an opportunity because we have to, in every game we play.
“When you’re on the back of a performance or result that could have gone better, the next game and the one after that which is Tottenham we will look at no different.
“The next game is the opportunity we have to improve our performance and if you can do that, it gives you a better chance to get a result.”
Brighton are one of Wolves’ biggest bogey sides and the Seagulls are going for the double over them.
Hughton has promised Nuno Espirito Santo’s side a battle when they come to Molineux this weekend.
“We need to show the same qualities that got us into the Premier League in the first place and the same qualities that have kept us here and the same qualities that have kept us here, two points above the relegation zone with five games to play,” he said. “That’s our togetherness and our battling qualities.
“We know there are some qualities that we’re not going to have such as the bigger teams have and the type of player they can bring in.
“We have to make up for that in different ways. That’s what this team was built on and that’s what we need to make sure we show plenty of.”
Brighton have also lost six of their last eight away games and, inevitably, pressure comes on to the manager. Perhaps understandably, questions have been asked about Hughton’s relationship with the board.
But the former Birmingham, Newcastle and Norwich boss insists it’s business as usual.
“Yes (I feel supported) and I always have regular chats with the chairman, Paul Barber and Dan Ashworth, who has now come in,” he said.
“Most of that is about games, performances in the games, and how things are in the week and during training.
“There would be nothing different now than at any other stage of the season.”