Six goals, three penalty misses and three red cards all featured at The AMEX tonight. SHAUN WILSON reports.
Lead Coach Paul Jenkins named the same starting line-up for the third game in a row, but it was the hosts who fashioned a chance after three minutes when Tyler Forbes came in off the right wing to shoot left footed though straight at Boro keeper Aynsley Pears.
A minute later the home side were awarded a penalty after Pears brought down the onrushing Aaron Connolly. The young Boro stopper was hoping to continue his run of saving three penalties for the U23s, but he wasn't needed as James Tilley crashed his spot kick against the crossbar and Forbes headed the rebound over.
The deadlock was broken on 20 minutes when Henrik Bjordal scored with a thumping header from George Cox's left wing cross. With Boro still trying to regroup after the goal, Brighton scored their second on 22 minutes. Forbes found some space in the right-hand side of the box and fizzed in a cross which James Tilley knocked in from close range to make amends for his penalty miss.
Events went from bad to worse for the young Boro side on 26 minutes when Brighton centre forward Aaron Connolly scored with an acrobatic overhead kick from the edge of the area to make it 3-0.
Half time: Brighton and Hove Albion U23s 3 Boro U23s 0
Boro having made all their three substitutions within an hour were battling hard to get back into the game and were awarded a penalty after 66 minutes. Forbes was adjudged to be the guilty man and was shown a red card to the bemusement of the players and crowd. Captain Joe Wheatley stepped up and sent a firm penalty down to the keeper's right but Niki Maenpaa pulled off a great save to keep it out.
On 69 minutes Brighton's Jayson Molumby hit the stanchion after being played in by Connolly. Two minutes later Jo Wheatley got Boro back into the game with a thunderous shot from the edge of the area. Boro's joy was short lived as Brighton scored their fourth on 72 minutes when James Tilley nipped in at the back post to score his second of the night.
This was becoming a breathless passage of play and Pattison thought he had scored with a goalbound effort but Maenpaa reacted well to tip it round the post. From the resulting corner there was a melee in the box, the ball fell to Alex Pattison to smash the ball into the net.
The adrenaline was well and truly running through the Boro player's veins as they attempted to get their third goal. On 76 minutes Mikael Soisalo smashed a right-wing cross across the face of the penalty area, but it eluded a lunging Hayden Coulson at the back post.
Still the excitement wasn't over and Brighton were awarded another penalty on 78 minutes when Niall McGoldrick was adjudged to have brought down Connolly. The centre forward dusted himself off but spot-kick king Pears pulled off a stupendous save to deny him.
Boro were pushing high in a bid to pull a goal back to force a grandstand finish and were caught when Connolly broke free on 87 minutes from the half way line. Marcus Tavernier chased after him and Connolly went down in a tangle of legs just outside the area. Tavernier was shown a straight red card with Niall McGoldrick following him in the referee's notebook for dissent.
On the stroke of full time it was a case of déjà vu when Connolly broke away again, but this time it was Callum Johnson who was the chasing defender. The result was the same with Connolly going down and Johnson receiving his marching orders.
Boro: Pears; Johnson, McGoldrick, Elsdon, Silva Torrajon (Coulson 46), Maloney, Tavernier, Wheatley (Capt), Fewster (McGhee 54), Pattison, Mondal (Soisalo 37). Unused sub: Hemming (gk).
Brighton and Hove Albion: Maenpaa; Collar (Capt), Cox, Barclay, Hall, White, Forbes, Molumby, Connolly, Bjordal (Davies 71), Tilley. Unused subs: Sanchez (gk); Dallison, Tighe.
Referee: Robert Whitton
Sent off: Forbes (Brighton) - Foul, 67; Tavernier (Boro) - Foul, 89; Johnson (Boro) - Foul, 90+3.
Booked: Johnson (Boro) - Foul, 81; Connolly (Brighton) - Foul, 88; McGoldrick (Boro) - Dissent, 89.