By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Reading 2
Albion continued their tradition of crashing out of the League Cup as they lost at home to Reading.
Chris Hughton used a majority of fringe players although it was difficult to work out if the Albion were playing 4-4-3 or 4-4-2 as the game kicked off.
Elvis Manu appeared to be playing wide, with Oliver Norwood on the other side, and Glenn Murray and Sam Baldock up front and Steve Sidwell and Rohan Ince in the centre of midfield.
Reading were finding plenty of room down the left in the area controlled by Rob Hunt.
Connor Goldson got caught in possession inside the Albion penalty area and as he recovered he, Liam Kelly and Albion debutante Seb Pocognoli got in a tangle. Albion’s new defender needed treatment.
As Albion launched an attack so Glenn Murray damaged his right boot.
While Murray received repairs on the touchline so Reading won a corner and scored as Stephen Quinn fired high into the roof of the net from close range.
Not long after Tyler Blackett slid in on the luckless Pocognoli and was shown a straight red card.
But the Albion had only one clear chance for the rest of the half, as Murray hit the bar with a powerful header from close range.
A quick flurry of corners early in the second half yielded little for the Seagulls.
As Albion pressed the ten men to try to find an equaliser so Reading broke forward and from the edge of the area John Swift placed a shot past Niki Maenpaa – and ten-man Reading doubled their lead.
It was difficult to see how Albion had been undone but it was also difficult to see what system they were playing.
Hughton brought on his wide men Jiri Skalak and Jamie Murphy, but still players like Goldson and Uwe Hünemeier played direct and straight passes that Royals keeper Anssi Jaakkola gathered easily.
Baldock ran around a lot but gave the ball away far too much.
Albion just didn’t click. Ince and Sidwell looked too alike and weren’t particularly creative.
Tomer Hemed replaced Ince and things improved a little as they appeared to adapt to a 4-3-3 with Hemed, Murray and Baldock up top.
A good old-fashioned goal scramble for the 6,235 excited fans as both Sidwell and Hünemeier went close.
Hughton encouraged and waved his team forward but everyone knows Albion’s perennial ultimate goal, don’t they?
Then Murray hooked the ball back across the goal and Hemed fired it home with five minutes left.
Five turned to eleven with added time and Albion continued to make some chances, Skalak getting the ball in from wide and Goldson seeing his firm header held by Jaakkola.
Murphy weaved his way into a shooting position but scuffed his shot wide.
Murray certainly looked to have been upended in the area by Moore in the dying moments but referee Lee Probert was having none of it.
The Seagulls go out for another year
Fourth placed Barnsley visit the Amex on Saturday (24 September) in the Championship.
Let’s hope the real Albion stand up.
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