Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 coach Simon Rusk praised his players for giving everything they had at Goodison Park this evening, but congratulated Premier League 2 Division 1 winners Everton after their 1-0 victory against his team.
The Seagulls needed to avoid defeat to the Toffees to take the race for the title to the final day of the season, but Josh Bowler’s first-half strike proved the difference and sealed top spot for the hosts.
An unfortunate slip from Viktor Gyokeres saw the Swede miss a penalty in the second half at Goodison, but Rusk was keen to compliment his players for their hard work and commitment throughout the entire season.
He said, “There’s obviously a feeling of disappointment — I felt we were in the game at all stages, and particularly with Viktor’s unfortunate penalty miss, things might have been different.
“I’m also feeling a lot of pride for the way the players have gone about it, not just tonight but over the course of the whole season.
“For the type of game it was tonight, I think the players gave their all and left everything on the pitch. We had some good moments of quality, but unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be.
“We’re disappointed with the goal and feel it was a preventable one, but Everton are a good team with good individuals. Congratulations to them for winning the league.”
Around 3,500 supporters watched the game unfold at the home of the Toffees, and Rusk highlighted what his players could take from the occasion, before switching their focus to Chelsea’s visit on the final day.
“It was at Goodison Park in front of a good crowd, so it was a great experience for the players.
“Of course they’re hurting tonight, because they’re an honest group that care. But it’s now something they’ve got to grow from.
“The season isn’t finished yet — we move on and want to finish it strongly against Chelsea. It’s been an incredible effort by the players all season.
“Once we get over this initial hurt of just getting pipped to the title and reflect upon it, we can be very proud of the season we’ve had.”
Rusk also gave a special mention to the members of Albion’s under-23 squad who were not present at Goodison Park, such as top goalscorer Aaron Connolly and other team-mates currently enjoying loan moves.
“We’ve got a lot of boys out on loan and there have been some good loan moves this season — that’s a reflection of a good team effort.
“Because the players have performed well as a team, it’s allowed individuals to have some important loan moves at an important time of their careers.
“The lads that have stayed have sustained a really good solid run of form in the league, which has allowed us to compete and be involved in a game like the one tonight.”