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Development Squad

PL2 Report: Brighton U23s 2 Rovers U23s 2

Joe Nuttall scores twice as 10-man Rovers draw 2-2 at the Amex

16 October 2017

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Joe Nuttall was amongst the goals again as Rovers Under-23s drew 2-2 with a strong Brighton side at the Amex Stadium.

In a frenetic start to the contest, the in-form forward twice gave Rovers the lead inside the opening 10 minutes, with Beram Kayal on the scoresheet for the hosts.

The turning point of the game arrived just before the break when Willem Tomlinson was shown a straight red card for a late lunge on Jiri Skalak and Brighton made the numerical advantage count, with James Tilley equalising shortly after the restart.

Both sides had chances to win it in the second half and ultimately Brighton were grateful to goalkeeper Tim Krul, who pulled off a smart save to deny Stefan Mols right at the death.

Ahead of the game, Damien Johnson made two changes to the side that drew 3-3 with Cardiff City in the Premier League Cup, with Scott Wharton making his first appearance of the season after recovering from an ankle injury.

Callum Wright was also brought back in, as Lewis Hardcastle and Daniel Butterworth were both ruled out.

By contrast, Brighton named an experienced side, with senior stars Sam Baldock, Skalak, Kayal and Krul all getting a run-out.

The game started at a blistering pace, with Rovers opening the scoring on seven minutes. Jack Doyle delivered a cross and Nuttall swept home the loose ball from inside the box.

Two minutes later and Brighton were back on level terms, as Israel international Kayal fired home a fantastic shot from the edge of the area.

However, virtually straight from the restart, Rovers restored their lead when Charley Doyle played the ball through to Nuttall, who scooped his shot over Krul for his 10th PL2 goal of the season and 13th in all competitions.

The young hot-shot then twice came close to claiming his hat-trick, only for Krul to come to Brighton's rescue, before Joe Rankin-Costello saw a shot saved by the Dutch keeper.

Baldock then threatened at the other end, but his glancing header went just over the bar, before Rovers were reduced to 10 men when Tomlinson saw red for a challenge on Skalak. The decision seemed harsh on the young Rovers midfielder.

Brighton ended the half on top, with Baldock twice denied in stoppage time, but parity was restored just six minutes into the second half when Tilley's cross-shot deceived Andy Fisher and found the far corner.

Both sides had chances to win it from then on, as Baldock fired over from close range, before Nuttall was again denied his hat-trick by Josh Kerr's brilliant block.

In the closing stages, Fisher made a fine save to prevent an own goal and Steven Alzate shot just wide, before Joe Rankin-Costello's looping header from a corner sailed just past the post.

Then, in the 92nd minute, Rovers almost secured the points, as Mols was played clean through, but Krul made a crucial save.

Johnson said: "Overall, I'm really pleased with the start we made. We were good value to be in front and could have been by more.

"After going a man down, it was always going to be tough against a strong side and on a big pitch, but the lads showed good character, good shape, we dug in, restricted them and looked a threat going forward.

"We found a way not to be beaten, which was pleasing."

BRIGHTON: Krul, Mateju, Hutchinson, Kerr (Moore 79), Cox, Kayal (Sanders 60), Collar, Skalak, Baldock (Connolly 60), Alzate, Tilley.
Subs not used: Sanchez, Ahannach.

Booked: Alzate, Kayal.
Goals: Kayal (9), Tilley (51)

ROVERS: Fisher, Travis, C. Doyle, Platt, Wharton (Grayson 46), J. Doyle, Tomlinson, Mols, Wright, Rankin-Costello, Nuttall.
Subs not used: Dillon, Evans, Thomson, Mansell.

Booked: Nuttall, Rankin-Costello, Travis.
Sent off: Tomlinson
Goals: Nuttall (7, 10)

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