Albion's under-23 coach felt his side got their rewards against Wimbledon.
Simon Rusk felt his team were worthy winners against AFC Wimbledon last night, as Brighton & Hove Albion progressed to the quarter-finals of the Checkatrade Trophy.
The Seagulls held on for a narrow 2-1 victory at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, and Rusk was impressed with his team’s ability to cancel out the dangers posed by the League One side.
He said, “I’m absolutely delighted and I thought we deserved to go through.
“It was great to get the 2-0 lead, but what I was most pleased with was how we saw the game out at the end, defending the box, long throws and crosses coming in; we stood up to it.
“Niki [Maenpaa] made some great saves and there was some great defending from Rohan Ince, so I’m absolutely delighted to qualify for the next round.
“It was one of the tougher draws, a side that are flying in League One, so for us to get through, I can only take my hat off to the lads and say well done.”
The Albion coach believes his players from the under-23 team have progressed over the course of the competition, and highlighted the benefits of playing alongside members of the first team.
“In the first game we played against Southend, whilst we were quite pretty in possession, we didn’t really have a toughness in the game management.
“But in this match, we perhaps showed what the games have given to the players, and also playing with the senior players is a massive bonus for them.
“Kazenga [LuaLua] played very well for us, Incey [Rohan Ince] was magnificent and Elvis [Manu] worked hard, so the younger boys certainly gain something from playing alongside them.
“However, we were playing against nine or ten senior players from AFC Wimbledon, and they’re very good, so credit to our younger lads, they more than contributed to the performance.”
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Rusk urged his team to maintain their positive mentality, and although reaching a Wembley final is a glamorous prospect, he is refusing to get carried away.
“There’s no point being in this competition if you don’t think you can do well, we’ve played a lot of games in it now and there hasn’t been any game that I thought we couldn’t get something.
“Why can’t we continue to go forward in that vein and think we can win every game? Obviously it’s one round at a time but if we win the next one, that takes us another step closer.
“I’ll certainly be telling the boys there’s a massive prize at stake, a Wembley cup final is a special thing, but we’re still a long way from that.”
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