Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 coach Simon Rusk believes their Checkatrade Trophy run has been a great experience for his players, despite losing 3-0 to Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena last night.
The Seagulls were knocked out of the competition after reaching the third-round stage, and Rusk admitted the pedigree of their League One opponents shone through on the night.
He said, “I think when it comes to the actual 90 minutes, we were well beaten. You have to credit Coventry; Russell’s [Slade] come in, had ten days on the training pitch and had an impact on the side.
“In fairness to us, for a young side, we’ve just come off the back of two really long journeys and I’m certainly not going to point the finger at the lads tonight, they gave us everything.
“On the night, we were a little bit short and inexperienced, but it’s another group learning curve for the players.
“Coventry fully deserved the 3-0 win and good luck to them for the rest of the tournament, but we take loads of positives from the last five games in this competition.
“Overall, if someone had said to me in the very first game away at Southend that we’d be here away at Coventry fives games on, I’d have been very happy with that.”
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Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez made a string of impressive saves to keep the scores level before Coventry took the lead shortly before half-time, and Rusk praised the Spanish shot-stopper.
“Robert did well, certainly in the first half. Looking at their team on paper, I knew we’d have to be resilient and hang on.
“A lot of our preparation was around being mentally tough in the game and hanging on, and when you’re having moments like that, you need your keeper to step up.
“He made some fabulous saves and allowed us to go in at half-time, still in the game. It was a great night for Robert [Sanchez] but across the board, there’s been a lot of good performances along the way.”
Rusk was pleased for the younger members of his squad who played at the Ricoh Arena, but felt his side missed the contribution of some of their key players, who missed the game through injury.
“We didn’t have many seniors on the pitch, but that was also a good thing because the younger lads got to taste a game like this.
“But without the likes of Jesse Starkey and Will Collar, and Ben White not being quite fit, I think it did tell in the end.”