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Club News

ANOTHER POSITIVE MONTH FOR ALBION’S UNDER-23S

31 October 2018

Kieran Cleeves
Aaron Connolly celebrates his goal against Blackburn Rovers.

Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-23s enjoyed another positive month in the Premier League 2 Division 1, while also taking another step towards qualification out of the Premier League International Cup group stage and the Checkatrade Trophy.

However, October was opened with their first league defeat of the campaign, as Derby County sealed a narrow 1-0 victory at Loughborough University, thanks to Jacob Butterfield’s stunning goal.

It was a tight contest between the sides, with Derby boasting a couple of first-team players, and it took Butterfield’s moment of quality to end Albion’s impressive unbeaten run.

Simon Rusk’s side then turned their attention to the Checkatrade Trophy, but 52 minutes into the contest the Seagulls found themselves trailing 2-0 against Peterborough United at the ABAX Stadium.

After losing to Luton Town in the opening group stage match, it looked as if Albion’s stay in the competition would be short-lived - that was until Rusk’s young side showed immense character to fight back.

Aaron Connolly picked out the bottom corner from outside the box to halve the deficit, before Jordan Davies headed home from George Cox’s accurate cross to level the game.

After hitting the crossbar in the closing stages, Albion had to settle for a penalty shootout for an extra point, and five converted penalties and a save from Billy Collings saw them overcome their League One opponents.

Back to the Amex and Blackburn Rovers were the visitors in the league — but Albion found themselves behind again when Okera Simmonds bent a free kick into the top corner inside the opening minutes.

But Rusk’s side refused to cave in and hit back in the 56th minute through Connolly, who showed awareness inside the penalty area to glance another Cox cross beyond the goalkeeper to make it 1-1.

Into the final minutes of the match and Albion won a corner — Davies swung the ball into the danger zone and Ben Barclay rose highest to plant an excellent header into the top corner to secure three points.

Another change in competition followed, this time into the Premier League International Cup, and European giants SL Benfica B were the visitors to the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre.

The Portuguese outfit enjoyed their fair share of possession but struggled to break down Albion’s organised defensive unit, and there was Viktor Gyokeres to convert an 11th-minute penalty to give Albion the advantage.

Searching for his ninth goal of the campaign, Connolly raced onto Ben White’s ball over the top and the Irishman cut inside before picking out the bottom corner to extend his team's lead.

The visitors pressurised Albion’s backline in the closing stages but couldn’t find a breakthrough of their own, and Rusk’s team comfortably held strong to claim a 2-0 victory and move onto four points after two games.

The final match of October saw Albion take on Chelsea at the EBB Stadium, and top spot was up for grabs as the sides played out the early kick-off in the league.

Rusk’s team were confident but few expected the game to pan out how it did, as two goals from Connolly and a penalty from Gyokeres saw Albion race into a 3-0 lead against the London club.

Connolly’s goals took his tally to 11 after 13 matches and his team’s comfortable lead looked uncatchable, but the Blues found the back of the net twice in quick succession to set up a nervy finish.

But Albion were able to hold on and put their short lapse behind them, as they secured their fourth league victory of the campaign to move top, before victories for Derby and Everton saw Albion end the month in third place.


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