Craig Mackail-Smith has backed Albion to avoid another December nosedive.

The Seagulls’ leading marksman insists they are better equipped than last season to stay with the chasing pack in the Championship.

Albion are eighth after starting the month with a 3-0 derby defeat at Crystal Palace and a 2-2 draw at Charlton, where they came from behind twice.

They were seventh at the same stage last season but plummeted to 16th by New Year’s Eve with four straight defeats before mounting a fresh challenge for a play-off spot.

Mackail-Smith told The Argus: “I think if we get to Christmas and we are in that top six, seven or eight, it’s a good position to be in.

“We are a lot stronger than we were last season. Going behind in games last season we were struggling to come back into it.

“We have showed we can do that this season. We just need to build on the Charlton result now, get on a run over Christmas.”

Three of Albion’s remaining four matches in December are at The Amex – where they saw off Bristol City last time out – and all of them are against fellow contenders.

Ninth-placed Nottingham Forest are the opponents on Saturday, followed by seventh-placed Millwall next Tuesday and sixth-placed Watford in the final match of 2012 after a trip to under-achieving Blackburn (13th).

Mackail-Smith said: “We are playing a few teams around us so if we can beat them, start pushing ourselves up and create a little gap, then hopefully towards the end of the season it will be really exciting.

“We beat Bristol and played very well. It was disappointing not to get three points at Charlton but it was another decent performance, so we can take that into this weekend.”

Seagulls defender fancies a career in the hot-seat - in The Argus today