FOR Brighton & Hove Albion, this season’s Premier League run-in is likely to resemble the Crazy Mouse rollercoaster that can be found at the end of the city’s remaining pier.
Twists and turns will abound for Chris Hughton’s men, no doubt accompanied by a few heart-stopping moments, before the ride comes to an end on May 12 with the daunting challenge of trying to take something off champions Manchester City on the south coast.
The next two or so months for Huddersfield Town, in contrast, will surely have more in common with Brighton’s newest visitor attraction – the British Airways i360 observation tower.
Like those enjoying the view from a glass pod 450ft above the seafront, the Terriers are heading inexorably down at a pace so serene that there is precious little chance of experiencing any of the thrills and spills that can be had on the nearby pier.
After the rare sight of a victory in midweek, Wolverhampton Wanderers the unsuspecting fall guys, normal service was resumed against the men from Sussex-by-the-sea.
Town lost for the 14th time in 16 games. In the process the run on the road since the Terriers last scored a league goal was extended beyond seven and a half playing hours. Chuck in the FA Cup third-round defeat to Bristol City and this grows to a mammoth 542 minutes.
Just 15 goals have been scored in 31 league and Cup outings thanks to Huddersfield firing more blanks than the Territorial Army.
Anyone wondering why a second season among English football’s elite has turned into such a toil for Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative need look no further than this abject return.
Rarely did it look like improving at a stadium where Town have now failed to win in seven visits.
Sure, Steve Mounie brought a flying save from Mat Ryan not long after Florin Andone had netted what proved to be the winner.
Juninho Bacuna had also tested the Australian in first-half stoppage-time with a left-foot drive that was arrowing into the corner of the net.
But, over the 90 minutes, Town’s attack looked every inch the sort that has to look back to Boxing Day and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen’s late consolation in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United for their last goal away from the John Smith’s Stadium.
Head coach Jan Siewert praised his side’s efforts. As he was right to do, particularly the manner in which his defence dug in during a second half that belonged to the hosts.
But as long as goals remain so elusive for the Terriers they will continue to be vulnerable to just one slip or mistake – as proved to be the case at the Amex Stadium.
Huddersfield switched off from a 79th-minute free-kick and paid the price as Anthony Knockaert collected a short pass and then crossed for Andone to head past Jonas Lossl.
That the breakthrough came just moments after Philip Billing, one of those who just stood and watched Andone score, had blocked Shane Duffy’s header on the line only added to the frustration felt by Siewert at the final whistle.
“I am so angry because we lost this game through one situation,” said the 36-year-old, who insists Jason Puncheon remains part of the squad despite reports of a bust-up and the failure of the loanee even to make the bench in the last two matches.
“We were not switched on and not organised. My players have to learn that in the Premier League such a situation changes games.
“I felt we deserved a point. Brighton were not better than us. But from one free-kick we lost the game. We had so many supporters here who came such a long distance and yet we lost the game. That makes me angry.”
Siewert may not believe Brighton deserved what was their first win of the year, but Hughton’s side did create by far the better chances and, in Andone, they had someone capable of electrifying proceedings.
The Romanian had netted the winner at the John Smith’s Stadium in December. So Town knew what danger to expect when Andone replaced the ineffective Glenn Murray shortly before the hour.
Sure enough, he brought a tempo to the Seagulls’ play that had been sorely lacking up to that point. Alireza Jahanbakhsh had struck the crossbar in the first half with an audacious effort from 30 yards.
Otherwise, though, the Terriers had coped well with what Brighton had to offer in attack.
Then came Andone’s introduction. Suddenly there was a zip about the hosts that Huddersfield could not match. Lossl had to save sharply from Jahanbakhsh just before the hour and then follow that with an even better one-handed stop to deny Andone.
In between those two saves Terence Kongolo twice had to display great anticipation to bar Andone’s route to goal with a last-ditch tackle as Brighton pushed for a winner that duly arrived nine minutes from time.
Andone’s guided header may help ensure these two teams are in different divisions next season.
This will mean Huddersfield fans being denied the opportunity to take a ride on Brighton’s i360, which the locals insist offers a view of Beachy Head and the Isle of Wight on a clear day.
Town’s immediate vista is less enticing.
Only a return to the Championship lies ahead and a summer rebuild that supporters must hope will soon have the club again reaching for the heights of top-flight football.