Brighton & Hove Albion bowed out of the play-offs at the semi-final stage, as a 1-1 draw in a heroic second leg performance was not enough to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit.
- Albion are beaten 3-1 on aggregate by Wednesday over the two legs
- Major injury doubts, Anthony Knockaert and Steve Sidwell, both start
- Lewis Dunk broke the deadlock for Albion
- Ross Wallace equalised for Wednesday
Albion’s players rose to the occasion, to the backdrop of a thunderous atmosphere inside the Amex, but despite Lewis Dunk’s opener, Ross Wallace’s equaliser ultimately ensured the Owls progressed to the final with a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Chris Hughton made just two enforced changes to the side that lost 2-0 at Hillsborough in the first leg, as Dunk and James Wilson replaced the injured Connor Goldson and Tomer Hemed.
Much to the delight of the Amex faithful, both Anthony Knockaert and Steve Sidwell were included in the line-up after both were forced off injured in the first leg.
There was a cauldron of noise as the Seagulls started the match with real intent, as Sidwell and Wilson both had close-range shots blocked before Jiri Skalak fired wide.
Knockaert came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the opening stages, when his in-swinging free-kick cannoned off the woodwork with Keiren Westwood well beaten.
Wilson then made a surging forward and picked out the Frenchman, whose cross towards Sam Baldock was cleared at the last moment by the Wednesday defence.
The winger continued to be involved in the thick of the action, when his low free-kick was tipped away by Westwood, before his deflected shot looped behind for a corner.
Brighton’s rampant start continued, when Baldock saw his effort tipped over and Knockaert headed wide at the far post following Skalak’s superb cross.
A thunderous noise rang around the stadium with 19 minutes on the clock, after Knockaert’s free-kick from the right-hand side was smashed home at the far post by Dunk.
But the Owls re-established their two-goal advantage ten minutes later after Wallace cut inside from the left and, as Dunk was seemingly pushed to the floor, the cross beat everyone including David Stockdale at the right post.
Albion were undeterred by the setback and continued to press forward, as Beram Kayal played in a perfectly-weighted pass towards Wilson, whose subsequent shot was saved by Westwood.
Hughton’s men came close once again from another set-piece, when Skalak’s free-kick grazed the top of the net.
Albion thought they had re-taken the lead in the game after the Czech international’s corner created mayhem in the box, but were almost dealt a sucker punch as Fernando Forestieri broke forward on the counter and found Gary Hooper, but Stockdale kept out his effort.
The Seagulls began the second half in the same way they ended the first, after Westwood was twice called into action to keep out shots from Skalak and Wilson.
Skalak saw his in-swinging free-kick go narrowly over the far post, before Hughton freshened up the attack with the introduction of Kazenga LuaLua, who replaced Baldock.
The Congolese winger had a chance to make a quick impact, only to see his thunderous set-piece smash against the wall.
Wednesday still carried a threat of their own though, as substitute Atdhe Nuhiu headed Kieran Lee’s cross over the bar at the far post.
Wilson then latched onto a ball inside the box and was allowed to turn and shoot, but his effort flew over the crossbar.
LuaLua and Dunk both had chances in the closing stages, but Wednesday held on to secure a berth in the Wembley final.
Despite the disappointing result, the Amex faithful gave the players a well-deserved round of applause off the pitch after a season of tremendous progress.
LOTTERY RESULTS1901 CLUB LOTTERY£1000 JACKPOT
£100 SUPERSTORE VOUCHER
MAGNUM OF CHAMPAGNE
BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE
BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE
ALBION HAT-TRICK1ST PRIZE
1ST GOAL TIME