- Haywards Heath beat Albion 1-0 to win the Sussex Community Shield
- Callum Saunders on target for Haywards Heath
- Danny Cashman and Stefan Ljubicic come close to scoring late on
- Albion’s under-23s begin their season against Liverpool on Friday
Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-23s were beaten 1-0 by Haywards Heath Town in the Sussex Community Shield at Culver Road.
A first-half penalty from Callum Saunders was enough to separate the two sides in the county’s showpiece match, as last season’s respective winners of the Southern Combination Football League and Parafix Sussex Senior Cup faced each other in aid of Chestnut Tree House.
Under-18 coaches Mark Beard and Mikey Harris took charge of a youthful under-23 side, which included nine under-18 players, alongside Stefan Ljubicic and goalkeeper Billy Collings, who captained the side.
Haywards Heath were enjoying a spell of sustained pressure when they were awarded a penalty after Melford Simpson’s header back across the box hit Tareq Shihab’s hand.
Saunders stepped up and slotted his penalty straight down the middle to give the reigning Southern Combination Football League champions the lead with 21 minutes on the clock.
Albion looked to quickly restore parity as Danny Cashman teed up Jack Spong in space, but his effort went wide.
Ayo Tanimowo then found himself in space through on goal, but opted to pass to Cashman instead and Haywards Heath cleared their lines.
Down the other end, Nathan Cooper headed a Saunders corner wide at the far post, before Simpson showed good persistence to engineer a chance, but his resulting header was comfortably saved by Collings.
The second half began in the same cagey fashion as the first with few chances for either side.
Lewis Finney carved out the first opening for Haywards Heath when he cut inside the Albion defence, only to see his subsequent shot blocked by Shihab.
Shaun Saunders’s side came close to doubling their lead through Simpson, when his diving header from a corner went just past the far post.
Collings was then called into action and made a fine save with his foot to keep out Saunders, before Finney fired the loose ball just wide with the follow-up.
Albion had arguably their best chance of the game through Ljubicic, who was picked out by Cashman, only to fire over the bar from close range.
Another chance came from a set piece, as Jayden Onen’s free kick hit the wall, before Spong fired the rebound wide.
Simpson came close to wrapping up the contest for Haywards Heath, but his close-range header was met with a fine save from Collings.
The Seagulls missed two golden opportunities in stoppage time, as both Cashman and Ljubicic headed wide while unmarked inside the box.
Ljubicic had two more chances even deeper into added time, as his free kick was pushed away by Joshua Heyburn, before he headed wide on the follow up.
ALBION: Collings; Weaire, Clark-Eden, Tutt; Shihab, Vukoje (Packham 63), Spong, Onen, Tanimowo; Ljubicic, Cashman.
SUBS NOT USED: Bentley (GK), Cochrane, Roberts, J. Davies.