Brighton & Hove Albion under-21 coach Simon Ireland was delighted with the way his side ground out a solid 0-0 draw away at Luton Town in a Final Third Development League Cup match at Kenilworth Road today.
The game was Albion’s second in the competition following a 2-0 victory over MK Dons at Culver Road last month and Ireland said his squad had to deal with a different type of test against a more senior Hatters side.
He told seagulls.co.uk, “It was a different challenge for us compared to the last few games. This cup is more like the old-fashioned reserve team format where you can play as many reserve team players as you want, and there’s no restriction on the number of over-21s that can play.
“They were a more experienced team in terms of age compared to our boys. They’re a big physical team, but provided the lads with a good and difficult test.
“It was much more physical than what they’re used to in the under-21 category one league programme, with a lot of high balls and more of a pressing style of play.
“I was quite pleased with how they rolled up their sleeves and battled to get a 0-0 draw really.”
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Neither side created many clear-cut chances on the day and Albion’s best opportunities of note fell to Danny Pappoe and Jesse Starkey.
The centre back saw his header ruled out for offside in the first half, while Starkey could have given Albion the lead but headed Bradley Barry’s cross wide of the target.
Ireland says the conditions were not conducive to a free-flowing match, but praised the players for their resilience.
“It was windy, blowing a gale and the rain was coming down. It was just an old-fashioned game of football really and one where both teams had to roll their sleeves up and battle.
“It wasn’t the kind of conditions where you could knock it round and dictate the play. It was one where the conditions made it into a battle.
“I thought the two centre backs Tom Dallison and Danny Pappoe defended well and our goalkeeper Harry Doherty had a good game, especially in the second half when we were put under pressure. I thought our defence as a whole withstood that well.
“Jeffrey [Monakana] and Jason [Davis] showed glimpses of what they can do in the wide areas, but overall it was just a good battling team performance.
“On the back of the game against Aston Villa where we played some good attacking football, today was the other side of our game where we had to show how well we could play against an experienced outfit.”
Albion were invited to compete in the competition and were drawn in Southern Group A, which involves five group stage fixtures against AFC Wimbledon, Luton Town, MK Dons, Gillingham and Cambridge United. The top two sides in the group then progress into the knockout stages.
ALBION: Doherty; Barry, Dallison, Pappoe, Hunt; Deen (Muitt 77), Rea, Balmy (Harris 77); Monakana, Starkey, Davis. Subs not used: Smith (GK), Barclay, Wiltshire.