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Brighton & Hove Albion win the Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup

Seagulls swoop late to clinch County Cup

Brighton & Hove Albion 2 - 1 Crawley Town

Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-23 side retained the Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup with a dramatic victory in Wednesday’s final over Crawley Town at the Amex Stadium. 

A composed finish from James Tilley and a late header courtesy of Josh Kerr saw Albion overturn a 1-0 deficit to clinch Sussex football’s most prestigious trophy and extend their unbeaten run to seventeen matches.

Kerr’s own goal on the hour mark gave Crawley the lead, but the Albion centre-back redeemed himself with five minutes remaining as his goal sealed victory.

The first chance of the game, which lacked first-half opportunities, fell to Simon Rusk’s side after twenty-three minutes when Ryan Longman’s long-range effort failed to trouble the goalkeeper, sailing just wide.

Seven minutes later Crawley went within inches of opening the scoring through Josh Payne, who tried to catch Brighton ‘keeper Collings out from distance, but he was denied as his curling shot flew past the post.

Harry Kewell’s side spurned another opportunity to take the lead with six minutes of the first period remaining when Moussa Sanoh failed to convert after Tilley gave the ball away carelessly in midfield.

The pace of the second half was much faster and more end-to-end than the first, with both teams in search of that cup-winning goal.

Brighton went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the sixty-seventh minute when Tilley smacked a powerful effort against the crossbar, but it was Crawley who found the breakthrough just seconds later.

Boldewijn’s marauding run out wide allowed him to drill a dangerous ball into the area which Kerr diverted into his own net.

As the game entered its closing stages Crawley looked as if they were going to hold on and win the competition for the first time in thirteen years, but Tilley’s leveller in the eighty-second minute changed the complexion of the match.

A defensive mix-up allowed Bojan Radulovic to feed the Albion midfielder to slot past Yusuf Mersin from close range.

Brighton, revitalised by the goal, immediately pressed for a second. Less than a minute later Tilley had a chance to double his tally from the penalty spot, but Mersin saved brilliantly to deny him another.

However, the elusive winner arrived from the resulting corner, with Kerr climbing highest to head home and break Crawley hearts.

Brighton boss Rusk praised his side’s character after the match: “I was really pleased with the performance tonight, and the levels of resilience.

“It’s a trophy that at the start of the year we wanted to go and win, and thankfully, down to the players’ commitment we managed to get the win,” he said.

Meanwhile, Crawley manager Kewell congratulated his opponents on the victory: "We knew they [Brighton] are a young team, they had the energy and they were up for it.

“People want to see us go places, but I think we need to sit down and have a look at bringing some fresh faces in [ready for next season].”

Brighton & Hove Albion lift the Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup
HIGHLIGHTS - brighton & Hove Albion vs. Crawley town
Watch highlights of Brighton & Hove Albion's narrow 2-1 victory against Crawley Town in the Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup Final. 

(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy Michael Hulfe via Simon Roe Photography)
(Video highlights are available above and also on YouTube - courtesy of FilmMyMatch)

Stats: (Brighton & Hove Albion-Crawley Town)
Goals: 2-1; Shots: 14-9; Shots-on-target: 5-2; Corners: 2-5; Fouls: 3-9; Yellow cards: 0-2; Red cards: 0-0; Offside: 8-2.  

Brighton & Hove Albion: Collings, Meekums, O’Sullivan, Hutchinson (c), O’Hora, Kerr, Ajiboye, Cochrane, Ayunga, Tilley, Longman. 
Subs: Vose, Radulovic, Lubacic, Tutt, Weaire.

Crawley Town: Mersin, Young, Payne, McNerney, Boldewijn, Yorwerth, Clifford, Evina, Tajbakhsh, Bulman (c), Sanoh. 
Subs: Morris, Djalo.

Match report by Archie Griggs