U23: Blackburn Rovers 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Premier League 2: Division Two
Monday 29th January, The County Ground (Lancashire FA HQ)
League leaders Blackburn Rovers’ 12-game unbeaten run came to an end at the County Ground at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion.
Simon Rusk’s side scored two goals in the first half and despite Rovers applying the pressure as the half went on, the visitors kept their clean sheet intact.
Lewis Hardcastle struck a venomous volley in the 5th minute that deflected into the grateful arms of Rob Sanchez in the Brighton goal.
Five minutes later the hosts went close to finding the opener, when Jordan Davies called Sanchez into action with a sweetly-struck shot from distance that was parried behind for a corner.
Despite Rovers’ dominance, it was the visitors who went ahead on 15 minutes and in some style, too.
Viktor Gyokeres picked the ball up 20 yards from goal and let fly - his strike curling into the top right corner of the goal, leaving Jason Leutwiler with no chance.
After a 10-minute spell of precious little in terms of chances, the Seagulls doubled their advantage through James Tilly.
Winger Henrik Bjordal worked an opening for the cross, his fizzed cross picking out the incoming Tilly who slotted home into the bottom corner with a first-time hit.
With less than 10 minutes until half time, Blackburn had two meaningful efforts in quick succession.
Willem Tomlinson first tried to lob Sanchez with an audacious chip that had too much power behind it, before Lewis Travis’ cross was blazed over the bar from close range by forward Daniel Butterworth.
Joe Nuttall was the next for Blackburn to go in search of a goal, but his left-footed shot was saved by the fingertips of Sanchez.
Rovers boss Damien Johnson made one change at the break, with new signing Okera Simmonds replacing Butterworth.
On 50 minutes Blackburn had their first effort of the half, when Joe Grayson’s well-hit free kick was collected well by Sanchez.
John Buckley was the next to try his luck as Blackburn came out in pursuit of a goal, but his curled effort went wide of the mark.
The winger was in the action moments later once more, picking out Nuttall with the cross who couldn’t quite sort his feet out to direct the effort goalwards.
With 57 minutes on the clock Rovers made their second change, as Lewis Mansell made way for Tyler Magloire.
Despite the hosts dominating the first 15 minutes of the second half, it was Brighton who went the closest as Leutwiler saved superbly to deny Tilly from inside the box, before then palming Owen Moore’s strike from distance round the post.
The 67th minute saw Blackburn come the closest to pulling a goal back, when Nuttall’s header was cleared off the line after a goalmouth scramble.
Rovers’ final change saw Jack Vale come on in place of John Buckley.
With ten minutes to play there was a slight break in play as Sanchez was left concussed following a collision, so he was therefore replaced by Billy Collings.
Due to that stoppage there was nine minutes of added time, but the visitors who had made the long journey held on to their two goal lead to clinch the win.
Blackburn Rovers: Leutwiler, C. Doyle, Evans, Tomlinson, Magloire (Mansell, 57), Grayson, Travis, Hardcastle, Nuttall, Butterworth (Simmonds, 45), Buckley (Vale, 74)
Subs not used: Carter, Albinson, Mansell
Brighton & Hove Albion: Sanchez (Collings, 81), Forbes, Cox, Davies, Moore, Dallinson, Tilly (Kerr, 87), Alzate, Gyokeres, Connelly, Bjordal
Subs not used: Mateju, Cochrane, Cashman