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#U18 #MatchReport #Brighton #JamieDonley #BillyHeaps

Under-18s in six-goal thriller at Brighton

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-3 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Tue 03 May 2022, 15:40|Tottenham Hotspur

Jamie Donley rescued a point for our Under-18s with an 88th-minute equaliser, but we could have emerged with even more after a rollercoaster match at Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday lunchtime.

Trailing inside 14 minutes to a Zak Emmerson strike amid a slow start, we began to play our way into the contest as the first period progressed and by the time Billy Heaps curled home an exquisite equaliser in the lead-up to half-time, we had much greater control of the game.

Donley got in on the act with a similarly stylish finish from a free-kick shortly after the restart but Brighton responded four minutes later when Marcus Ifill robbed Max McKnight at right-back and levelled the scores.

A couple of big chances then fell by the wayside as both Donley and Rio Kyerematen were denied by home goalkeeper Hugo Fisher – missed opportunities that looked like they were going to cost us when Emmerson made it 3-2 to Brighton with four minutes left.

But we refused to lie down after our dominant second-half performance and from Heaps’ well-weighted ball forward, Donley controlled in the box and slammed home to ensure honours at least ended even at 3-3 – our first draw of the season in the Under-18 Premier League in our penultimate game in the division.

The Seagulls pushed hard in the opening stages at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, Emmerson denied by goalkeeper Adam Hayton on the counter and Benicio Baker-Boaitey – one of two Brighton starters to have featured in Monday’s Under-23 match between the two clubs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – seeing his effort from the right angle hit the far post in the immediate aftermath. The same two players then combined to give their side the lead as Baker-Boaitey’s clever pass put Emmerson in behind our defence to stroke low past Hayton.

More attempts at goal followed from the hosts, but when Dante Cassanova’s shot took a wicked deflection off skipper Jack Hinshelwood and looped up onto the crossbar, we began to show more attacking impetus and after Donley’s thumping right-footed shot was touched wide by Fisher, we netted a 43rd-minute leveller in some fashion, Cassanova and Jaden Williams combining to find George Abbott in the box, whose smart pass to Heaps allowed the midfielder to bend a superb shot into the far top corner on his right foot.

Donley fired us ahead three minutes after the restart when he curled a fine set-piece inside the near post on his left foot but our lead was quickly cancelled out when Ifill picked the pocket of McKnight and curled home from the left angle in a similar position to Heaps’ earlier strike for us.

In spite of that setback, we continued on the front foot and when Heaps played Donley through on goal in a central position, the skipper seemed destined to score, but a good block from Fisher denied him. Kyerematen was also thwarted by the keeper after a fluid passing move with his follow-up shot blocked by a defender, only for Brighton to then hit us with a sucker-punch at the other end when Emmerson’s effort flew inside the near post via a slight defection off McKnight with 86 minutes on the watch.

Thankfully, our character shone through as we recovered to draw level once again two minutes later, Donley pulling down Heaps’ ball in the box and firing past the advancing Fisher. There was still time for Heaps to send a free-kick into the mix from the side of the area as we sought a winner, but it was a little too high for Alfie Dorrington at the back post and we ended up sharing the spoils.

‘The boys showed great character’

Under-18s Coach Stuart Lewis was left with mixed emotions after the game, his delight at our late equaliser tempered by feelings that we could have taken more away from the south coast: “On reflection, I thought we deserved to win the game,” he said. “We weren’t on the front foot enough and we lacked a little bit of purpose in the first 25 minutes but as the game progressed, I thought we were the dominant team on chances created and on the balance of play, so although we probably deserved to take all three points, it was good to get the draw in the end after going 3-2 down so late. The boys showed great character to come back into it and earn a point after a pleasing second-half performance.

“Billy Heaps’ goal was outstanding. It was a lovely assist from George Abbott and Billy finished – we know he’s a good ball striker and it was a really good goal, Jamie’s free-kick was then a moment of individual brilliance and the last goal was an excellent pass from Billy and a really calm, composed finished from Jamie to get the point. The goals were really pleasing, but we’re still a little bit disappointed that we didn’t take all three points given how good our play was during the second half in the final third.”

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-3 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Hayton, McKnight, Linton, Abbott, Andiyapan, Dorrington, Williams, Cassanova (Bloxham 75), Donley (c), Kyerematen, Heaps. Substitutes (not used): Maguire, Owen, Bryan-Waugh.