PETER CLARKE goes into his reunion with Brighton hot shot Craig Mackail-Smith tomorrow buoyed by big praise from Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle.
Clarke still has painful memories of Town’s last meeting with the Scottish international striker, who pounced for a goal in Peterborough’s 3-0 League I play-off final triumph at Old Trafford in 2011.
It was his 99th for Posh, who signed him from Dagenham and Redbridge, and turned out to be his last after Brighton’s £3m bid was accepted.
The 28-year-old, who started out at non-league St Albans, netted 10 times last season, including a double in Brighton’s 3-3 home draw against a Leeds side then bossed by Simon Grayson.
He has already chalked up nine this time around, and is ready to add to that haul at the John Smith’s Stadium.
“I don’t know if that play-off final was my best game but it was certainly the most memorable,” said Mackail-Smith, who has six Scotland caps.
“To play in a game like that was fantastic for myself and the club, although I probably won’t get the best reception from the Huddersfield fans!”
Centre-back Clarke has already had one nasty reminder of Old Trafford in the shape of Peterborough’s 3-1 win over Town at London Road last month.
He’s determined to avoid another and play his part in what would be a second successive clean sheet and sixth of the season.
“As a defender, you’re always made up with clean sheets,” said the skipper, who will play alongside former Brighton man Joel Lynch in central defence.
“But it’s not just us who deserve the plaudits, because it takes a lot of hard work from everyone in the team.
“It’s not just the defenders and goalkeeper. It’ a collective thing, just as it is when we score, because a lot of our attacking play starts at the back.”
Clarke has been earning plenty of plaudits for his performances of late, and Hoyle said: “He’s been immense.
“Some people were questioning Peter last season, but the arrival of Joel Lynch (from Nottingham Forest), means he’s back on his favoured side and doing very well.”
It’s a clash of sixth against eighth tomorrow, with Town three points better off than Gus Poyet’s Brighton after 16 games.
And Clarke continued: “To be where we are at this stage is brilliant, and when we all do our jobs properly, we look a good side.
“We have a lot of belief in the squad, but we have to keep backing that up out there on the pitch, because we badly want to maintain our challenge.
“The Brighton game is a good one to look forward to.They are a good side. We respect them and the way they play but we don’t fear them.”
Town’s on-loan Norwich striker James Vaughan remains sidelined by a thigh injury while Brighton are hopeful on the fitness of defenders Wayne Bridge and Adam El-Abd.
Ex-England star Bridge, on loan from Manchester City, was forced off by a calf injury during last Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Wolves. He had played every minute of the season up until then.
El-Abd has missed Brighton’s last two games plus Egypt’s international clash with Georgia.
Spanish midfielder Vicente is out with a thigh problem.