TONIGHT sees the Clarets up against what could easily be described as our most controversial opponents over the last couple of years or 50.

Indeed, our debut at their new ground in December 2011 saw two Brighton players walk in 11 minutes.

Players being sent off during these games has become the norm rather than the exception, with our own Tom Heaton becoming the latest recipient of a red card down at the Amex under bizarre circumstances.

Having already been booked for bringing down Will Buckley outside the box, our goalkeeper was forced to take evasive action by lobbing the ball in the air before catching it again as the same player attempted to wrestle it out of his hands.

Referee Darren Sheldrake somehow deemed the action as ‘ungentlemanly conduct’ with a second yellow, and so red.

It has got to be the most ridiculous sending off that I have witnessed, and was surely a case of over compensating for what many – including myself – thought could easily have been a straight red for the original offence.

We have the chance to avenge our first defeat of the season, but it will be anything but an easy passage if the previous spoiling tactics of the opposition surface once more.

Now, although current league leaders Leicester aren’t out of sight just yet, it is fair to say that a nine-point deficit will take some closing, which makes our fixture against second-placed Queens Park Rangers on Saturday all the more critical.

There is also the ‘Charlie Factor’ of course, with Austin presently enjoying a goalscoring purple patch.

Add to that the meanest defence in the division with only five goals conceded at Loftus Road, and the size of our task looks all the more formidable.

But let us dispel any heightened senses of trepidation with a few pertinent facts.

First of all, we have only lost once against any of the top eight sides in Brighton so you can say that we are certainly deserving of our present position.

Secondly, Burnley were good value for their 2-0 win at Turf Moor in October, and finally the threat of Austin that day was superbly ‘shackled’ by our captain, Jason Shackell.

A repeat performance would certainly make a renewed statement of intent that we fear no-one, home or away, in the Championship.