Brighton & Hove Albion under-23s coach Simon Rusk was proud of the way his players handled the game in Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat away to Luton Town in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Goals from Aaron Jarvis and Jorge Grant had put the hosts two goals ahead at Kenilworth Road, but Aaron Connolly grabbed his fourth of the season five minutes from time to set up a tight finish and Rusk was delighted with how his side fared in Bedfordshire.
He said, “It was a great test and we faced a very experienced Luton Town side tonight. We’re not making excuses but we’re a little bit young on the night, because of players being away, and I thought we gave our all.
“We did superbly to stay in the game because their side has plenty of Football League experience – the key was staying in the game and credit to the players for doing that.
“We scored a great goal and kept going, so I have no problem with the commitment the players showed this evening and we’ll take a lot from it.”
The contest was the side’s first of the campaign in the competition, with MK Dons and Peterborough United providing the other group opposition for the Seagulls – and the coach emphasised that the tests against senior sides are exactly what the tournament is for.
“We’re in this competition to learn and that’s exactly what you get when you play these sorts of sides.
“There’s always going to be physical mismatches here and there, but we knew how they’d play and use their experience, and they did that well.
“But my players showed professionalism and heart – we had our moments, but we had to be in the game until the end and we were, so I’m really pleased.”
Jarvis opened the scoring for Nathan Jones’ side in the fifth minute during a first half where the hosts enjoyed the greater share of possession and chances.
But Albion grew into the contest and had the openings towards the end of the game, and Rusk emphasised his happiness at the way his players stuck at the task against the Sky Bet League One side.
“We found the first period hard but that’s why the tournament is there because it gives them a different type of exposure.
“It was intense, and they gave us problems - those challenges within games are all big parts of being a professional footballer.
“I’m delighted my players were exposed to that, because Luton have some very experienced individuals.
“The goal is exactly what we’re about and even though we would have liked to have had more possession within the game and created a few more chances, it’s a positive experience for us overall.
“On another night you can concede a few goals and suffer a heavy defeat, but the boys didn’t do that and we can learn a lot from the game.”