Every team has them. For Chelsea it is Claude Makelele, Arsenal have Gilberto, Manchester United John O'Shea.

They are not headline grabbers but they go quietly about their business, doing a valuable job for the side. They are players' players.

You will not see Dean Hammond hitting raking crossfield passes a la Dean Cox, or going past opponents like Jake Robinson. In Albion's case it is Hammond who is the unsung hero.

Every now and then they come from behind the curtains to take centre stage. Hammond did just that on Saturday night.

He was the X Factor, almost singlehandedly hauling a below-par Albion to victory with both goals, including the winner from the penalty spot in the closing stages.

Boss Dean Wilkins recognises the value of a player who is leading by example more and more as he settles into the captaincy.

"I think Dean is one of those players managers and his team-mates appreciate more than supporters," Wilkins said.

"I wish supporters would appreciate him a wee bit more because he is a true Brighton player and he showed a lot of bottle to take that penalty."

Hammond is quite content for others to receive the plaudits. "My game is about keeping the ball, passing the ball," he said.

"Other players do things further up the field, I try to start the game off. I enjoy the way I am expected to play."

Albion did not play the way fans probably expected them to against struggling Cheltenham.

The Withdean faithful have been spoilt lately - four goals against MK Dons, eight against Northwich Victoria, three in each of the previous two home games against Stafford Rangers and Swansea, all blended with patches of crowd-pleasing fluency.

Hero Hammond takes centre stage This game was different, much more of a grind against a team set up for a point which they very nearly got, albeit in unexpected fashion.

It was another learning experience for Wilkins' young lineup.

They will take as much from it, if not more, than those goalladen victories.

Another feast was on the cards if Jake Robinson had taken an early chance.

Alex Revell cut the ball back invitingly into his path but Albion's normally deadly leading marksman shot the wrong side of the lefthand post.

That was the prelude to a lacklustre first-half performance as the Seagulls laboured for cohesion.

They might have been punished by a better team than Cheltenham.

The visitors enjoyed their fair share of possession and their lone striker, the tall and long-legged Nigerian Kayode Odejayi, was a threat in the air but they did not look like scoring.

The goals that won the game for Albion emphasised the benefits of preparation.

Another setpiece provided the breakthrough. Kerry Mayo's corner found Hammond unmarked beyond the far post and his downward header bounced into the net.

That, we all thought was that but Cheltenham snatched a surprise equaliser with 16 minutes left.

Jamie Victory, brought on five minutes earlier as part of a double substitution, drilled in a low shot via the foot of a post after Albion failed to clear their lines.

They have not kept a clean sheet at home in the League since Gillingham were the first visitors of the season.

That statistic would have gnawed away at them if they had ended up with only a point.

Instead they moved into the top ten for the first time since August with Hammond's eighth of the season from the spot, struck firmly to the left of the keeper, three minutes from time.

Robinson redeemed himself by threading a pass through to Revell and he was brought down by Cheltenham centre half Gavin Caines for the most obvious of penalties.

Hammond has a relentlessly rehearsed routine which is serving him well. He does not always go the same way with his spot-kicks but he has a clear picture of what he is going to do before he steps up.

That is ten wins out of 13 now in all competitions for Albion, which has set up an intriguing second half to the season on three fronts.

Wilkins said: "I could be critical but I'm not going to be, because the players have sweated blood over the last ten to 15 games.

"I would have liked us to be more entertaining but perhaps that is a sign of a good side that can win without playing to its potential.

"One of the things that pleased me was that the dressing room was quiet at the end, because the players were disappointed with the way they performed.

That shows good mentality."

The library atmosphere was unjustified. Wilkins and his players have plenty to shout about at the moment, none more so than Hammond.

ALBION (4-4-2): Wayne Henderson (GK), Andrew Whing (RB), Adam Hinshelwood (CB), Joel Lynch (CB), Sam Rents (LB), Tommy Fraser (RM), Dean Hammond (CM), Kerry Mayo (CM), Dean Cox (LM), Alex Revell (CF), Jake Robinson (CF), Subs: Gary Hart (for Hinshelwood 80), Michel Kuipers, Joe Gatting, Georges Santos, Alistair John (for Fraser 62).

CHELTENHAM (3-5-2): Shane Higgs (GK), Brian Wilson (RB), Gavin Caines (CB), Shane Duff (CB), Craig Armstrong (LB), JJ Melligan (RM), Kristian O'Leary (CM), John Finnigan (CM), David Bird (CM), Damian Spencer (LM), Kayode Odejayi (CF).

Subs: Steve Guinan, Scott Brown, Jamie Victory (for Finnigan 69), Michael Townsend, Sothsene Yao (for Bird 69).