With improvement called for after the 1-1 home draw with Leicester City in midweek, we were bright in our attacking play and deserved the advantage given to us by Samuel Shashoua five minutes before the break.
However, the Seagulls restored parity three minutes later through Stephan Ljubicic after we failed to clear our lines on the right and the home side grabbed a second with 19 minutes remaining after we held onto possession at the back for too long, with Charlie Ferguson needing no second invitation to win the ball and eventually lash beyond Alfie Whiteman.
Determined to take something from the game, we piled forward in the closing stages and the hosts were hanging on by the skin of their teeth at times, but a combination of a heavily-manned defence and the second ball just not falling in our favour saw us kept at bay.
We started the Under-18 Premier League contest with purpose amid the bitterly cold conditions at Brighton’s training ground, although goalkeeper Whiteman had to be at full-stretch to tip Ljubicic’s deflected shot around the post less than two minutes in.
Chances were few in number but we were confident in getting forward, often moving the ball out wide and looking to work an opening. After Brighton’s Archie Davies put one into the side-netting, it was one of our wide men – Shashoua – who produced the opening goal. Playing in to the feet of central striker Reo Griffiths, he received a deft back-heeled return pass and drilled into the net from inside the box on the left with 40 minutes on the watch.
Our joy wouldn’t last, though, as three minutes later, Isaac Hutchinson evaded several challenges to reach the byline on our right and although Whiteman denied him at the near post, Ljubicic was never going to miss the rebound from eight yards out.
Brighton were in the ascendancy heading into half-time but we enjoyed the better of the majority of the second period and we were desperately unlucky not to regain the lead. Left-back Jaden Brown’s low cross was beaten out by Brighton goalkeeper Billy Collings, who then denied Oliver Skipp on the rebound before saving Dylan Duncan’s drive from long-range a few moments later.
Above: Kazaiah Sterling retains possession.
We went closer still on 68 minutes when Shashoua worked the ball out to Duncan on the right, his shot was saved, Brown recycled it on the other side but hit the base of the post with his first attempt before seeing his second shot repelled by Collings.
However, our good work was undone on 71 minutes and centre-back Japhet Tanganga will have been particularly disappointed with how things played out. After initially defending well one-against-one, he held onto the ball for too long as he looked to move out from the back, allowing Ferguson to pounce, exchange passes with Ljubicic and lash high into the net.
Brighton might have added a third when Hutchinson shot just wide and substitute Danny Cashman somehow skewed over the bar from six yards, but we were relentless in our pursuit of a late leveller. Substitutes Kazaiah Sterling and Jack Roles were at the heart of it on the edge of the opponents’ area but just couldn’t find an opening and although we did manage to slip in down the sides on a couple of occasions, the Seagulls closed ranks to see the game out.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“If anything I was more disappointed with the draw in midweek than the loss today. We approached the game in a very positive manner, I didn’t think we played badly and we had good, honest intent. Today was less about mentality and more about defensive mistakes – attacking ones as well. They were honest mistakes but errors nonetheless.
“These boys are talented and as long as their approach, character and mentality is good they’ve got a really good chance of becoming footballers so today it’s more about going back to the training ground and owning some defensive things for individuals and in terms of our attacking play it’s just about getting better habits – I’m a little bit disappointed in our habits in both penalty boxes today.
“We tried everything, we threw the kitchen sink at them towards the end and you wouldn’t believe the level of disappointment in that changing room at the moment. It’s not back to the drawing board as such, but we’ve got a few days now just to work with the players on certain things.”
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Hinds (Gonzalez-Velasco 85), Brown, Marsh (c, Roles 67), Dinzeyi, Tanganga, Shashoua, Skipp, Griffiths (Sterling 62), Duncan, Bennetts. Substitute (not used): Freeman (GK).
We’ve six days before we’re back in Under-18 Premier League action as Fulham visit the Training Centre for a 12noon kick-off on Friday, February 17.