Albion's development side snatch a late winner in a 3-2 win away at Millwall...
George Barker grabbed a dramatic late winner as Albion’s development squad twice came from behind to win 3-2 at Millwall in an enthralling encounter.
The contest was poised to end all square before the Seagulls’ top scorer intervened with just three minutes to go.
Dylan Richards had given the home side the lead before an Anton Rodgers penalty levelled the score; Tobi Alabi restored the Lions’ lead but Torbjorn Agdestein equalised before Barker hit the winner.
Luke Williams’ side had keeper Grant Smith to thank in injury time as the stopper pulled out a brilliant stop to guarantee Albion the three points.
The development side welcomed back a wealth of talent from recent loan spells with Brennan Dickenson, George Barker and Yaser Kasim all returning to the starting XI; new signing Vitalijis Maksimenko was also making his first appearance since his transfer last week.
Williams opted for a new formation of 3-5-2 in the first half but his young side were sluggish in the opening 25 minutes as the hosts’ high pressure tactics restricted Albion’s style.
Former Albion midfielder Thierry Racon had the game’s first chance as he dragged a shot from the edge wide and Jack Sammoutis followed suit shortly after with an identical effort.
Barker had Albion’s first opportunity as his left-footed effort was comfortably held by Luke Bartlett before Millwall’s Jake Goodman headed over from Sammoutis’ corner.
The best chance of the opening period fell to Agdestein who was played through by Solly March, but the Norwegian was firstly denied one-on-one by Bartlett before dragging the rebound across the goal.
Millwall’s high intensity and physicality had proved problematic in the opening 45 so Williams made a tactical change at half-time; reverting to his favoured 4-3-3 formation.
But it was the hosts who found the opening goal on 53 minutes. The impressive Scott Malone whipped a ball into the Albion box which fell invitingly for Dylan Richards, and the midfielder stabbed the ball in off the bar.
The Lions almost doubled their lead just minutes later as Goodman headed wide from inside the six-yard box before Malone saw his cross evade Smith and bounce back off the inside of the post.
Albion were reeling but slowly pulled themselves back into the game and were handed a lifeline on 67 minutes. Barker’s trickery and persistence proved too much for Richards who pulled the striker down for a Brighton penalty; Rodgers stepped up and sent Bartlett the wrong way to level the scores.
Moments later Agdestein had two chances to put Albion ahead, firstly firing over from the edge of the area before flicking Barker’s near-post cross narrowly over.
And Albion paid the price as Alab’s long range shot took a wicked deflection of Rob Hunt, wrong-footing Smith and nestling in the Seagulls’ net.
Williams’ side were staring defeat in the face but with ten minutes left Charlie Oatway played Agdestein in and the striker directed the ball past Bartlett into the bottom corner.
Then with just minutes remaining March’s raking diagonal ball unleashed Barker down the right and the striker showed what Albion had been missing whilst he was out on loan at Barnet. The forward weaved his way in from the right, turning Malone inside out before firing a right-footed effort into Bartlett’s bottom right corner.
There was still time for further drama as Millwall searched for an equaliser and it looked odds on they had found it when Alabi met Malone’s cross, but the striker’s downward header was fantastically saved by the legs of Smith and with that gave Albion a winning start to the New Year.
Albion: Smith (GK); Jones, Maksimenko, Sampayo; Rodger, Kasim, Oatway, March; Agdestein, Dickenson (Hunt 46), Barker. Subs Not Used: East (GK), Akubuine, Richards, Goodwin.