McKirdy’s late strike earns Stevenage a Checkatrade Trophy point against Brighton

Steven Schumacher challenges for the ball

Steven Schumacher challenges for the ball - Credit: Archant

Stevenage and Brighton & Hove Albion U23s drew 2-2 in the Checkatrade Trophy Southern Group G at the Lamex Stadium with the Seagulls gaining a bonus point for winning a penalty shoot-out 4-3.

The result leaves Boro bottom of the group with one game, at home to Southend United, to play and progression still an outside possibility.

With two sides of the ground empty, and just 486 supporters in the other two, the home support had little to shout about in the opening 45 minutes.

In fact it was groans which they began the evening with.

Within a minute of Stevenage taking kick-off the visitors from the south coast took the lead.

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After the hosts immediately lost possession, the Championship club’s XI attacked down the left before a ball into the box was slotted home by Rohan Ince.

It was Brighton who had the greater attacking threat and in frontman Elvis Manu they had a real dangerman.

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The strong, stocky striker went close next, but was denied by Stevenage’s rookie keeper Callum Preston.

Stevenage did enjoy some nice build-up place however balls into the box rarely found a target with Brighton former Borussia Dortmund centre half Uwe Hunemeier marshalling his back line.

Preston thwarted Manu a couple of times to keep the score at 1-0, before Luke Wilkinson and Steven Schumacher did get on the end of deliveries into the box.

Apart from Fox’s 25 yard free-kick which sailed over, Stevenage’s best opportunity of the first half came almost by chance as Connor Hunte’s left wing cross deflected off a defender and dropped just wide of the far post.

Preston was then alert just before the break to again palm wide as Manu wriggled away from his markers to get a shot away.

After the break Stevenage were the better side, but lost central defender Luke Wilkinson as he limped off.

On the hour mark Darren Sarll’s improved side drew level as Michael Tonge picked out Connor Hunte, his effort was fumbled and Tyler Walker eventually tucked in from close range.

With little goalmouth action, it was Stevenage who looked the more likely to score and substitute Jake Hyde looped a header from a Fox cross just wide.

Despite that Stevenage were hit with a sucker-punch when Jesse Starkey glanced home a header on a rare Brighton attack to restore their lead.

Stevenage substitute Harry McKirdy looked lively after his introduction and the Aston Villa 19-year-old loanee was rewarded for his efforts on 87 minutes.

A loose ball was not cleared by the away defence and he lashed home his first professional goal.

There was still time for McKirdy to create an opening for Fox, but off balance his attempt hit the post.

The final whistle blew with the game ending 2-2.

However, under odd competition rules a penalty shoot-out them followed with the winners gaining a bonus point.

Stevenage missed two of their kicks through Hunte and Cowans as the away side took the extra point.

Stevenage: Preston, Fox, King, Wilkinson (Tonge 50), Schumacher (Hyde 60), Walker (McKirdy 70), Gorman, Hunte, Cowans, Henry (c), Ntlhe.

Subs: Jones, Lee, Slater, Wilmot.

Brighton & Hove Albion U23: Sanchez, Hunemeier, Pocognoli, Goldson, Manu (Ayunga 75), Ince, Starkey, Hutchinson (Tilly 75), Ward, Hunt, Collar.

Subs: Vose, Tighe, White, Cadman, Harper.

Referee: Dean Whitestone.

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