Albion Analysis: #4 Rotherham United (H), 16th August 2016.
Brighton and Hove Albion moved to the top of the Sky Bet Championship after comfortably beating Rotherham United 3-0 at the Amex.
Goals from Anthony Knockaert, Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed prolonged the Seagulls unbeaten start to the campaign, with the defence keeping a fourth consecutive clean sheet.
Credit is due to the likes of Bruno and Lewis Dunk for their fantastic performances at the back for Brighton so far this season, but yesterday it was Niki Mäenpää’s chance to prove his worth.
The Finnish shot stopper made his home league debut for the Albion in place of regular ‘keeper David Stockdale, who came off injured in last weekend’s clash with Nottingham Forest.
Albeit it was an easy night for the Seagulls on the whole, the goalkeeper still had to stop the minimal Rotherham threat at times, and made some good saves when called upon.
Manager Chris Hughton was full of praise for Mäenpää; and he may even be in contention to start the weekend’s fixture away at Reading.
Since he joined the Albion just over 12 months ago, the 31-year old has helped transform Stockdale into one of the most potent goalkeepers of the division.
Cast your mind back to the Sami Hyypia era of 2014-15, and you’d remember a very different Stockdale, who produced some pretty bad clangers between the sticks.
Mäenpää though has helped develop Stockdale’s judgment when to come out, when to collect the ball in mid air, his positioning and most of all his distribution.
His work off the playing pitch hasn’t been brought up enough; and his performances in the League Cup and FA Cup last season weren’t bad at all.
It was only a matter of time before he got his league bow, as no player can remain fully fit all the time, and the 31-year old took his opportunity with both hands.
As much as it would please me to see Stockdale return in goal; I think Mäenpää should play, give him a chance to consolidate his place.
Reading at the Madejski will be a tough place to go and a good test for the Finnish goalkeeper.
Squad rotation is so important in this division; and it also creates good competition for places.
Should Mäenpää play and do well against Reading, then we know for certain we have two very good goalkeepers at our disposal here at the club.