September In Review: Under-23s
Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-23s played four matches across three different competitions in September, as Simon Rusk’s team continued their unbeaten start to the Premier League 2 Division 1 campaign. Unfortunately, the run came to an end on the opening day of the following month, but a victory over West Ham United and a 2-2 draw at Leicester City took Albion to six league matches without defeat. The month began with a trip to Kenilworth Road in the Checkatrade Trophy, and it proved a difficult evening for Rusk’s side as they came face-to-face with League One opposition. Luton Town made a blistering start to the game and took the lead on five minutes, when Aaron Jarvis broke into the penalty area and volleyed home at the back post. Jorge Grant’s deflected strike in the 79th minute put the game out of sight for the Seagulls, and despite Aaron Connolly’s late header which halved the deficit, the Hatters held on for three points. There were plenty of positives to take out of the game, as Albion frustrated Nathan Jones’s established side for the majority of the contest, and goalkeeper Jason Steele made a string of impressive saves. West Ham United then arrived at the Amex Stadium to face Rusk’s team in the league, and the Hammers broke the deadlock in the 20th minute through Grady Diangana, who had looked lively from the outset. Albion came out for the second half and noticeably improved across the pitch, as the Seagulls upped the tempo and pinned the Hammers back until the east London club came undone. Viktor Gyokeres showed composure inside the penalty area to volley his team level in the 75th minute, and just three minutes later the comeback was complete when Connolly stroked home from Anders Dreyer’s cross. Connolly almost added another with a brilliant scissor-kick in the closing stages, but two goals were enough to seal a second successive league victory for Rusk’s in-form side. Next up for the Seagulls was the visit of Everton in the Premier League International Cup, a competition which sees clubs from across Europe invited to play against sides from the Premier League 2 Division 1. Albion were making their debut in the tournament, and they once again had to come from behind after Bassala Sambou fired the Toffees in front from the penalty spot after 25 minutes. Two goals in quick succession turned the game on its head in the second half, as Ben Barclay headed home from Markus Suttner’s corner, before James Tilley poked Albion into a 2-1 lead in the 66th minute. But with 15 minutes remaining, substitute Ellis Simms found space inside Albion’s box and fired into the roof of the net to secure a share of the spoils in the opening group game. Albion ended the month in dramatic fashion against Leicester City, as Rusk’s team left it late to snatch a point against the Foxes after an entertaining game at Holmes Park. Summer signing Dreyer notched his first Albion goal after 35 minutes, as he cut inside and saw his deflected effort creep into the bottom corner to break the deadlock. But Callum Wright’s header shortly before the break levelled the game, and then his second-half strike bounced back off the post, hit Hugo Keto and found the back of the net to put the Foxes in front. Time was running out for Albion and their unbeaten run looked under threat, but Rusk’s side continued to battle and found their reward deep into stoppage time. Barclay headed a free-kick into the danger area, and Connolly manoeuvred his body to lash into the back of the net to earn his team-mates a hard-earned point on the road.