Extra time goals seal 3-0 Brighton triumph in Sussex Senior Cup final
Reds hopes of lifting some silverware this season were ended by a well-drilled Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 side in the final of the Sussex Senior Cup.
Three goals in extra time by James Tilley, Richie Towell and Joe Ward deservedly won it for the Seagulls after a cagey 90 minutes which contained few clear-cut opportunities.
Enzio Boldewijn had two good chances for Crawley after coming off the bench but it was the Seagulls who lifted the trophy for the sixth time in 11 years.
There was just one Reds player – Andre Blackman - in the side which lost to Cambridge on Saturday in the cup final starting XI as Dermot Drummy continued his policy in this season’s competition of giving squad players game time.
The Seagulls’ line-up included Tom Dallison, who played a game on loan for Crawley last season before breaking his toe.
Backed by a noisy travelling support of 500 in a crowd of 1,316, Reds began brightly and Rhys Murphy forced Seagulls keeper Robert Sanchez to make a sprawling save in the fourth minute when he let fly from 20 yards.
The hosts were happy to keep possession and look for openings before they began to get a grip, particularly in midfield, and Tilley wasn’t far away when he let fly from 25 yards with a right-footed effort that dipped just over the bar.
Matt Harrold, from a header, and Jordan Roberts’ follow-up effort were both blocked midway through the half but that was the last time Crawley threatened in the first half, although Brighton’s next chance didn’t arrive until the 44th minute when George Cox curled a free kick from the right-hand edge of the penalty area into the side netting.
As they had in the first half Crawley started the second period strongly. Sanchez was forced to save a half-volley from Murphy then Josh Yorwerth rose to meet Billy Clifford’s set piece when Reds won a rare corner and his looping header was claimed by Sanchez. Sanchez ran towards the edge of his box to try and start a counter-attack but was baulked by Addison Garnett, who was booked.
Ben White fired over on the turn for the hosts and at that stage it was hard to pick a winner although Brighton remained good in possession as they looked for openings.
Josh Payne replaced Arjan Tajbakhsh in the 64th minute and six minutes later Enzio Boldewijn and Joe McNerney came on for Bobson Bawling and Garnett.
Yusuf Mersin made his first save of note in the 76th minute when Dessie Hutchinson went for placement rather than power from just inside the box and the keeper beat his effort away.
Mersin was grateful to see Tyler Forbes sky his shot after breaking into the box but moments later he gifted the ball to Ben Hall who fed Tilley and his curling shot was past the post by the grateful keeper.
Reds had two late corners but Harrold and Yorwerth could not find the target with their headers then Forbes got across to make a superb interception just as Boldewijn was about to pull the trigger ten yards out and extra time it was.
The deadlock was broken in the 96th minute. Forbes produced a terrific cross from the right and Tilley, on the stretch, guided it superbly into the top corner with his left foot.
Boldewijn had a chance to equalise in the 103rd minute when he controlled a cross-field ball and spun past his marker on the right, but his shot was always clearing the near post.
But it was Brighton who wrapped it up with two more goals. Yorwerth left a long ball for Mersin to deal with but his team-mate stood still and Towell nipped in, rounding the keeper and slotting the ball into an empty net to make it 2-0 on 109 minutes.
Then five minutes later Joe Ward burst into space on right and smashed an unstoppable shot inside the right-hand post as Brighton countered effectively against a tiring team.
There wasn’t even the satisfaction of a consolation for Crawley when Blackman’s long-range effort was pawed over at full stretch by Sanchez seconds before the final whistle.
Reds: Mersin, Lelan, Garnett (McNerney 70), Yorwerth, Blackman; Bawling (Boldewijn 70), Clifford, Tajbakhsh (Payne 64), Roberts; Murphy; Harrold. Unused subs: Morris, Young.