We controlled the game for large spells at the Seagulls’ American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, but succumbed to a counter-attack towards the end of a difficult second period in which we couldn’t find a way through a tight Brighton defence.
Jack Roles – on his first Under-18s start – and Dylan Duncan both made themselves busy in central areas as we probed in search of an opening but, as the former’s stoppage time free-kick sailed just past the post, with it went our last chance of salvaging what would have been a deserved point.
Danny Mandroui’s header from George Cox’s free-kick drifted off target in the opening exchanges of what was a physical battle at times, but we soon began to impose ourselves on the game with the lively Roles shooting over the bar from distance after seven minutes.
Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez was then called upon twice to keep us at bay, first diving to his left to save Marcus Edwards’ free-kick from the edge of the box on 14 minutes and then getting himself in the way of Duncan’s low drive two minutes later after Ryan Loft latched onto Christian Maghoma’s ball forward and set the midfielder up to shoot.
Centre-forward Loft proved a handful for the Seagulls’ defence as the minutes ticked by and mid-way through the first half he stormed through in the right channel, only to be denied by a fine Sanchez save as the keeper pushed his rising shot around the post.
Mandroui’s effort at the other end spun comfortably into the grasp of goalkeeper Tom McDermott as the Seagulls served a reminder that they were on the lookout for a breakthrough themselves, while Sanchez had to be alert to smother Samuel Shashoua’s low ball in from the left with Duncan ready to pounce in the six-yard box.
Shashoua might have scored on 43 minutes when the ball fell kindly for him in the area and he shot towards goal, but Sanchez got a touch to take the sting out of it and defender Tom Cadman was there to clear as it trickled towards the gaping net.
Brighton’s next chance had an element of fortune about it as Cox’s wide free-kick caught the wind and dropped just over the bar at the end of the first period, while Loft went close once more within a minute of the restart but fired straight at Sanchez under pressure from a defender after a neat pass from Roles.
There was a lengthy delay in the moments that followed as Cadman suffered a nasty injury inside his own penalty box, with both sets of players having to regroup when the game eventually got back underway.
Roles tested Sanchez from distance, but Brighton went closer still when Max Sanders’ curling shot cannoned back off the crossbar on 73 minutes, with Archie Davies’ effort from the rebound being deflected behind for a corner.
The feisty nature of the game was still evident in patches, but we suffered what turned out to be the decisive blow with 80 minutes on the watch as Mandroui slid home from close range to finish off a counter attack and edge Brighton in front.
Our intent didn’t waver, though, with Edwards getting on the ball around the sides of the box and causing the hosts problems. From one such solo display on 83 minutes he set up Shashoua, but his shot was saved by Sanchez.
As the game entered its latter stages, we were still unable to make our pressure count and Roles’ free-kick took a touch off a defender and flew just the wrong side of the far post in the fifth minute of stoppage time – typifying our frustration on the south coast.
Spurs U18s: McDermott, Paul, Brown, Owens (Hayford 66), Tanganga, Maghoma, Edwards, Roles, Loft (Oteh 75), Duncan (Bennetts 66), Shashoua. Substitute (not used): Whiteman (GK).