Stevenage 3-1 Brighton: Darren Sarll's young team claim impressive victory
PUBLISHED: 23:53 07 November 2017 | UPDATED: 23:53 07 November 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
Stevenage claimed an impressive 3-1 win over Brighton U-21s in the Checkatrade trophy at the Lamex on Tuesday night.
First-half goals from Alex Samuel and a penalty from Kyle Wooton put Boro 2-0 up at the break before Samuel grabbed a second, Brighton then notched a late consolation through Jamie Murphy in injury time but the result was not enough to help the home side’s cause as they exited this unpopular competition at the group stage.
The game kicked off in rainy conditions at the Lamex Stadium, with only three-hundred-and-eighty-nine hardy souls in attendance.
Though Stevenage started the game with little chance of reaching the knockout stages, manager Darren Sarll said before the match he wanted to ‘put out a team that do themselves justice’.
Boro did just that, hassling Brighton and pressing them high up the pitch from the off. Brighton spread the ball about with the assurance you might expect from – or at least hope of – a Premier League under-twenty-one side.
Forward Alex Samuel was a relentless menace throughout, running at the Brighton defence with bravado.
Brighton looked technically more accomplished than Stevenage, but arguably more tentative on the ball, and in the first fifteen minutes they could hardly escape their own half. Harry Beautyman on the other wing was also hassling Brighton into mistakes, and World Cup semi-finalist Tim Krul made a couple of sliced clearances.
Krul was vocal throughout, however, and cajoled his defenders non-stop throughout the match.
Brighton, and playmaker Jason Molumby in particular, looked to be asserting themselves, Stevenage scored. It was a wonderful goal too: six slick passes on the equally slick playing surface saw Beautytman through on the left.
He drove forward in the rain to tee up Samuel, who muscled past his marker to steer past Krul at the near post. Perhaps Krul should have saved it, but it was a deserved goal for Samuel and for Stevenage.
The goal lifted Stevenage’s confidence further, and they snapped into tackles all over the pitch.
Brighton remained composed, though, with Molumby playing some excellent, incisive passes. The former Fulham full-back Liam Rosenior was also beginning to impose himself down the left.
On the half-hour, the two standout players, Boro’s Samuel and Brighton’s Molumby, clashed when Samuel left an over-exuberant boot on Molumby’s shin. In truth he was extremely lucky not to be booked.
From that moment onwards, the game was scrappy and highly-charged. Krul was again forced into several surprisingly – for a keeper of his vast experience – panicky clearances.
Sarll’s men clearly sensed his nervousness which began to infect his defenders. They pushed for a second before half-time as Tom Conlon won a penalty after a crude tackle from Brighton’s Uwe Hunemier.
Striker Kyle Wooton stepped up and slotted confidently past Krul for 2-0 which he can put on his CV – for remember when a certain Louis Van Gaal brought him on in the 2014 World Cup semi-final just to play in the shooutout.
Suddenly, Stevenage had a solid lead to protect.
The second half began at a frenetic pace, with Brighton’s youngsters looking more urgent in possession than the first half. The mood of the game was totally different, with far less emphasis on possession and a much greater number of long balls.
On fifty minutes Brighton right-back come wing-back Ezequiel Scheletto was scythed down after a mazy run, and the resulting free-kick, from substitute Soufyan Ahannach, very nearly found a Seagulls head.
Soon after, Brighton winger Aaron Connolly really should have reduced the deficit, somehow missing with the net at his mercy.
Neither side could keep the ball, with several loose Boro passes requiring superb covering tackles from full-backs Terence Vancooten and Luke Wade-Slater.
If you think full-backs have forgotten how to defend, you should come to the Lamex on a rainy Tuesday night.
On the hour, Brighton really started to show their inexperience with two poor challenges in succession.
Brighton needed to win to qualify, of course, and had it all to play for.
For the next twenty minutes the game was dominated by Brighton.
The Seagulls were living up to their nickname by feeding off any scrap that Boro would toss them – no loose ball went uncontested, and Krul’s deep Dutch voice grew ever louder.
Brighton’s Izzy Brown, overshadowed by his midfield partner Molumby in the first half, started to impose himself. Boro’s Mark McKee had to battle to contain him as Stevenage became entrenched in their own half.
But again, just as things were looking tough for Sarll’s side, they found a way to score. It was the first time they escaped their own half for twenty minutes, and Samuel was again to the fore. The ball fell fortuitously at his feet, but his finish was predatory, swivelling to volley home from the edge of the box.
To Brighton’s credit, they did not give up, but the game was now up. Substitute Andronicos Georgiou – who Sarll described as a ‘terrific prospect’ before the game - showed some lovely touches as Boro finally started to relax.
They perhaps relaxed too much, as Jamie Murphy grabbed a late consolation for Brighton after Izzy Brown’s though-ball.
But having lost their previous two matches in the Checkatrade Trophy, Stevenage can be mightily proud of their display against possible future Premier League players. Every single Boro fan applauded on the final whistle – and rightly so.