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Under-18s concede late in draw at Brighton

Brighton 2-2 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 27 January 2024, 14:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-18s conceded a late equaliser as Brighton & Hove Albion snatched a point at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre on Saturday morning.

Having cancelled out Shane Nti's opener through Mikey Moore three minutes before half-time, we responded well after the interval and took the lead for the first time as Ellis Lehane instinctively fired in Moore's corner on 50 minutes.

But the home side never gave up and agonisingly struck five minutes from time when substitute Harry Howell was allowed time to cut inside and break through to equalise for 2-2. It was a bitter blow after we stood firm to nullify the home side's threat thanks to the resolute Archie Chaplin at the heart of defence, with substitute Yusuf Akhamrich missing our best opportunity for us to come away with maximum points as the points were shared in a gruelling encounter.

Following an 11-day break since progressing in the FA Youth Cup at Burton Albion, Stuart Lewis' young side travelled to the south coast looking to continue their perfect start to 2024. There was a great intensity early on as both sides traded blows in the opening stages, Brighton's Sahil Bashir first denying Miracle Adewole a certain opener on seven minutes before captain Chaplin produced a superb recovery tackle to block Joe Belmont's shot two minutes later.

With both sides valuing the ball and keeping possession for spells, it turned into a chess match with neither side really able to create clearcut opportunities as Oliver Irow skimmed the crossbar with a fierce drive from the edge of the area midway through the first half.

It took until the 34th minute for the opener to arrive, Brighton capitalising on a slight mix up at the back to punish us as Ronnie Gorman laid in Nti to break the deadlock with a low drive past Carey Bloedorn. Gorman then twice tested Bloedorn from 18 yards out with shots straight at the young goalkeeper before the influential Moore fired home a left-footed strike which sailed high into the net via a slight deflection.

We gained the upper hand for the first time five minutes into the second half when Moore's out-swinging corner - after left-back Callum Logan produced a superb burst through the middle of the pitch before Irow's shot was blocked to win the set piece - fell to Lehane who produced an instinctive volley from close range to make it 2-1.

In an energetic and physical encounter, the Seagulls made four changes just before the hour mark as they looked for inspiration off the bench to get back on level terms. After Adewole fired straight at the keeper for perhaps our best chance to make it three on 65 minutes, two of Brighton's substitutes caused problems as Aidan West missed two good chances before Howell was then afforded the space to cut inside on a solo run and finish accurately into the bottom corner to level with five minutes remaining.

The commanding Chaplin, who led by example throughout the contest, was called into last-ditch action a minute later, doing excellently to slide in to deny Belmont an unlikely winner, before our best chance to grab all three points fell to Akhamrich in the second minute of stoppage time but he was caught in two minds in the six-yard box as Brighton managed to scramble it clear with the points halved.

'We needed that game today'

Under-18s Coach Lewis was honest in his reflections on a really important test for the players ahead of an enticing few weeks ahead: "I thought it was a really challenging game. We've had a period of time without playing and I think we needed that game today," he said.

"Disappointing to concede after being 2-1 up but, on the balance of play, it was probably a fair result. We had a couple of big moments at the end where we could've taken our chances to win the game but on reflection it was a well-deserved point.

"Brighton were brave and played with courage that posed a few problems and challenges at times. But we had a really good spell at the start of the second half where, at 2-1, we wanted to get that third goal to create a gap. We didn't do that and paid the price.

"It was a really important game for us from a physical and tactical perspective, and we can review ahead of an exciting few weeks of football coming up."

Brighton 2-2 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Bloedorn, Black, Chaplin (c), King, Logan; Morgan, Olusesi (Willhoft-King 73), Moore (Akhamrich 73); Irow, Lehane, Adewole. Substitutes (not used): Archer, Adelusi, Arganese-McDermott.