- Albion are edged out 2-1 by Luton Town
- Aaron Jarvis and Jorge Grant score for the hosts
- Aaron Connolly replies late on for the Seagulls
- Jason Steele makes a string of fine saves
A Brighton & Hove Albion under-21 side were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Luton Town at Kenilworth Road this evening, as the hosts claimed victory in the first round of Checkatrade Trophy games.
Aaron Jarvis broke the deadlock for the Hatters, before Jorge Grant doubled the advantage after the break - and despite a late spell of pressure, which included a fourth goal of the season for Aaron Connolly, the Bedfordshire club secured maximum points.
The hosts created the first opportunity of the game after just two minutes, as Jarvis swivelled inside the penalty area and powered towards goal, but Jason Steele was there to make a fine stop.
But just three minutes later, the Luton forward made no mistake from close range, as he connected sweetly with James Justin’s cross to the back post and fired past Steele to make it 1-0.
Connolly was then sent racing towards goal by Jordan Davies’s diagonal pass, but the Irishman’s volley, which he did well to direct on target, sailed straight into the hands of Harry Isted.
The Hatters continued their fast-paced start with another chance soon after, but Eunan O’Kane, who arrived late inside Albion’s penalty area, side-footed narrowly wide of Steele’s right-hand post.
Steele kept the game at 1-0 when Grant ferociously pulled the trigger from just outside the penalty area - the Albion shot-stopper made a superb one-handed save to deny the midfielder.
The Hatters almost doubled their lead on the half-hour mark, when O’Kane fired towards goal from long range, and although the ball beat Steele, it clipped the top of the crossbar and went behind.
Luton’s pressure continued into the half-time break, with Steele making another fine stop from Arthur Read’s deflected effort, but Nathan Jones’s team were unable to double their advantage.
Steele remained busy shortly after the re-start when a diagonal pass found Harry Cornick at the back post - the Albion shot-stopper leaped to his right-hand side to palm the winger’s header away from goal.
Albion’s best opportunity of the game then dropped to J.Davies just shy of the hour mark, when the Welshman volleyed towards goal from inside the box, but Isted denied the Seagulls midfielder.
Grant almost put his side 2-0 ahead when his clever flick from Alan McCormack’s cross looped over Steele from the edge of the box, but the attacker’s instinctive effort dropped just over the crossbar.
But the hosts secured a two-goal cushion in the 80th minute, and it was Grant’s deflected strike that beat Steele to improve Luton’s advantage and give Rusk’s side a steeper hill to climb.
J.Davies worked Isted with an impressive volley six minutes from time, but it was Connolly that managed to beat the Hatters shot-stopper in the 86th minute, as he powered a header home from Alex Cochrane’s inch-perfect delivery.
The Seagulls pushed for an equalising goal in the closing stages, as Luton sat back and defended their narrow lead, but Rusk’s side were unable to find a second goal and the Hatters claimed victory.
ALBION: Steele; A.Davies, White, Kerr, Cochrane; Mandroiu, J.Davies; Onen (Barclay 46), Tilley (Cashman 71), Gyokeres; Connolly.
Subs not used: Collings (GK), O’Hora, Packham, Spong.