Albion forced to shootout in Community Shield win
Brighton & Hove Albion’s young seagulls prevailed on penalties to win the Sussex Community Shield at Culver Road on Wednesday night, despite Dion Jarvis’ last gasp leveller.
Lauren Tolaj looked to have sealed a come-from-behind victory for the Senior Cup winners but Littlehampton’s treble-winning side – ahead of their debut campaign in the Isthmian League – proved they are made of stern stuff.
In an incredible finale, a foul by Casper Nilsson gave the Golds the latest of lifelines and Jarvis inswinging set-piece evaded everyone and found its way beyond Albion keeper Killian Cahill. No sooner had their ever-vociferous band of supporters roared again, the always exciting spectacle of a shootout ensued.
Tolaj, Billie Clark, Jake Gee, and Benecio Baker – Boaitey all converted from the spot but Jamie Carroll and George Gaskin erred for Littlehampton as Shannon Ruth’s young charges lifted the first silverware of the season.
The annual Sussex Community Shield pits the Senior Cup winners against the SCFL Premier Division champions with Mitchell Hand’s Golds; fresh from their historic season in which they won three trophies and played at Wembley and Ruth’s Seagulls, who begin their Premier League 2 Division campaign at rivals Crystal Palace on Monday.
The first opening of the match went the way of Littlehampton when new signing Josh Short burst clear but was denied by the legs of Killian Cahill. Short was making his presence felt and caused problems again when he challenged for the ball, it came loose and Cahill was unable to hold on but Brighton were able to clear their lines.
Soon after, Golds bright start was rewarded with the opener when Marshall Ball – back with Littlehampton after a second spell having studied in the USA – rose highest from Jordan Layton’s corner to power in his header.
In search of an immediate response, Benicio Baker – Boaitey had his side’s first effort two minutes further on, but the forward curled wide with a first time 25 yarder. The former Porto winger carved out another good opening on the stroke of half time after a jinking run into the box, but Clark was unable to find the target.
The young Brighton side, that included two 16-year-olds, upped the ante in the second half, and after Baker-Boaitey had fired a warning shot, the equaliser came seven minutes after the restart.
Brighton had started the second half with renewed intent and equalized when substitute Bailey Smith cut back for Clark to fire in an excellent finish beyond the stranded James Binfield.
The best chance of the night came Albion’s way on 69 minutes when the goalscorer was played through to find himself one on one with the keeper. Having buried his earlier chance, the Culver Road crowd expected the net to bulge but Clark’s effort rolled agonizingly wide of the far post to ensure parity remained.
Binfield punched away a free-kick from Tolaj – who had a goal disallowed for offside - before the Brighton captain’s opposite number nine, Gaskin, flashed a shot wide from distance.
For all their new signings, Littlehampton’s best addition is the retention of talismanic figurehead Joe Benn, whom opted to stay with the West Sussex side despite a host of suitors after his 60 goals last term. Benn began this one on the bench but joined the action early in the second half and almost continued where he had left off, only to see his volley fly narrowly wide in the closing stages.
Then came the dramatic denouement: first, Tolaj swept in on the angle after Baker – Boaitey’s quickly taken free-kick into his path before Jarvis swirling set-piece evaded everyone and found the corner. 2-2 after 90 minutes to set up the shootout from which Shannon’s side settled the silverware.
Development coach Shannon was pleased with his team’s second half showing, but also felt there was room for improvement.
“We didn’t play as well as I know we can in the first half, we had a lot of the ball but didn’t do much with it but we rectified that.
“The second half was much better but having gone ahead so late it was disappointing to not see the game out and concede straight away.
“Having said that, in a way it was a good learning point for us because it showed vulnerability on a set piece against a strong, physical side so it’s something for us to work on.
“Games like this aren’t easy; it was a different type of game than we’re perhaps used to but Littlehampton won the treble last season so we were expecting a tough contest and that’s what we got.
“We had three 16-year-olds out there, Joe (Knight) and Bailey (Smith) did well off the bench, Billie Clark played well and Tolaj looked good up front.
“Overall, good preparation and a good opportunity for a good few of the players to stake their claim for a place in my line up for the game at Selhurst Park on Monday, which will be a great occasion and tough test for us.”
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
(Video highlights are available above and on YouTube - courtesy of Your Instant Replay)
Stats (Brighton-Littlehampton): Goals (2-2); Shots (7-6); Shots on target (2-3); Fouls (10-9); Corners (3-4); Offsides (2-3); Yellow Cards (2-4); Red Cards (0-0)
Brighton & Hove Albion: Cahill; Nilsson, Jackson, McConville, Triallist; Chouchane, Everitt; Ifill, Baker – Boaitey, Clark; Tolaj. Subs: Smith (Ifill ht), Penman, Knight (Jackson, Chouchane 60), Gee (Everitt 78), Reid.
Littlehampton Town: Binfield; Packer, Hendy, Layton, Jarvis; Pattenden, Ball, Faber, Capon; Short, Gaskin. Subs: J.Benn (Capon 54), Berry (Layton 63), Carroll (Short 70), Rohilla, Wiggans.
Match Report by Jamie Spoor