- Victor Gyokeres notches stylish brace
- Tom Brewitt shown straight red card for visitors
- Henrik Bjordal also finds the net
- Seagulls advance to the Premier League 2 Division 2 play-off final
Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-23s sealed their place in the Premier League 2 Division 2 play-off final with a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough at the Amex Stadium on Friday evening.
A second half brace from Victor Gyokeres and a strike from Henrik Bjordal saw Albion rewarded for a gritty and determined performance against stubborn opposition.
Simon Rusk made one change to the side that won so impressively in the 5-0 victory away to Wolves on Monday night, as Uwe Huenemeier came in for Warren O’Hora in the centre of the home defence.
Kian Spence drew Robert Sanchez into a routine save with a shot from distance with the game's first shot on target after a quiet opening, before Aaron Connolly's clever knock down to Henrik Bjordal was scrambled clear by the Middlesbrough defence.
Connolly’s overhead kick from close range was claimed by Hemming following the first corner of the game and Sanchez palmed Connor Malley’s effort away from goal as the contest began to come to life.
The visiting forward had another good chance soon after when volleyed from inside the area, and Victor Gyokeres was inches away from setting up Connolly when he got to the byline and saw his cut-back hacked away just past the 20-minute mark.
Bjordal’s strong run into the area then took him past two Middlesbrough defenders and ended in his low ball into the area being hacked off the line by the visiting defence.
A mishit cross from Huenemeier found Gyokeres at the back post as the Swede saw his low effort skew away off the legs of Hemmings, before the keeper denied the Albion man immediately afterwards again, but this time at his near post.
That was the last of the action for the first half as the sides went in goalless at the interval.
Connolly’s intelligent work won Albion a corner ten minutes after the restart, but the home side couldn’t make the most of the opportunity in a quiet start to the second half.
Ales Mateju had a golden chance to hand the home side the lead moments before the hour mark. Bjordal’s deep cross found the full-back at the far post, but the defender met the ball on the bounce while leaning back and the ball flew over the crossbar.
Bjordal’s smart turn and strike drew Hemming into a low stop after a well-worked move from Albion, and Gyokeres headed down and wide at the far post as Rusk’s side began to dominate proceedings.
Tyrone O’Neill volleyed over with a great chance for the visitors at the other end against the run of play, and Malley fired over as the Teesiders twice went close in quick succession.
Gyokeres found space at the back post once more to meet Bjordal’s deep ball from the left, and Tom Dallison’s header from the corner soon after was claimed by Hemmings.
Mandroiu met George Cox’s cross sweetly on the volley as the ball flashed wide, before Connolly was inches away from meeting the midfielder’s dangerous cross as Albion continued to threaten.
But Rusk’s side would get their reward for their pressure with 20 minutes left to play.
Bjordal and Cox combined again down the left to allow the latter an opening to cross, and Gyokeres stooped in at the far post to head back across goal and into the corner to hand the home side a deserved lead.
Visiting captain Tom Brewitt was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Connolly after 75 minutes, before Bjordal netted a second goal for the home side to all but end the game as a contest.
The midfielder had threatened all evening, and he took the ball down and turned sharply to fire into the net and double the home side’s advantage.
Two became three soon after as the Seagulls overran their tired opponents, and Gyokeres weaved his way downfield before exchanging passes with Mateju and finishing superbly from inside the area with 10 minutes left to play.
James Tilley and Alex Cochrane replaced Gyokeres and Cox respectively, and Dessie Hutchinson replaced Mandroiu as Albion made their three switches.
Connolly was denied by Hemmings as the rain began to come down as the contest drew to a close, and the hosts saw out another impressive victory.
Rusk's side now await confirmation of their opponents for the play-off final - with the Seagulls facing the winner of Aston Villa vs Reading on Tuesday evening at Villa Park.
Albion line-up: Sanchez; Mateju, Huenemeier, Dallison, Cox (Cochrane 85); Bjordal, Sanders ©, Alzate, Gyokeres (Tilley 82); Mandroiu (Hutchinson 90), Connolly.
Subs not used: Collings, Barclay.