GALLERY: Rocks take on Brighton at the Amex in Sussex Senior Cup final

Different ground, same teams, same result - and the Rocks management felt they were well-beaten by a superior team as they lost 4-0 to Brighton’s development squad at the Amex.

A hat-trick by Toby Agdestein and a goal from ex-Nyewood Lane loanee George Barker killed off any hopes the Rocks could cause an upset against a host side who may have been young but included a number of players with Seagulls first-team experience.

The Rocks are ready for action at the Amex  Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks are ready for action at the Amex Picture by Tommy McMillan

It was the same size of defeat the Rocks suffered to Brighton’s development side at Eastbourne in the 2010 final.

There were no complaints afterwards from the Rocks bosses, who said their own young players could learn a lot from the experience and use it to spur themselves to greater things.

They lost the battle on the pitch but certainly won off it - with close to 1,500 Rocks fans among the crowd of 2,435 making themselves heard from start to finish and giving their side a great ovation at the end despite the scoreline.

Manager Jamie Howell said: “We conducted ourselves well but came up against a very, very good football team. We have worked hard with our boys but they have not come up against anything like this before today.”

Coach Darin Killpartrick added: “It hurts to lose but it doesn’t hurt as much as it might because of the team we lost to. They were fitter and moved the ball around better - they were very hard to play against.”

Bognor were boosted before kick-off by the return to the team of James Crane and Dan Beck after injury, while Harvey Whyte’s recovery from a broken collarbone was sufficient to earn him a place on the bench.

Brighton took just 13 minutes to get themselves into the lead as the Rocks made a rather nervy start in surroundings much grander than they are used to playing in.

It was a simple goal that put the Rocks behind when Agdestein, the Brighton captain, picked up a pass down the left, cut inside and shot low beyond Craig Stoner’s reach and into the corner of the net.

The response from the Rocks fans was immediate - ‘Eagles, Eagles’, they chanted to remind Brighton fans who’d won the play-off semi-final at the same venue five days earlier - but on the pitch Howell and Killpartrick’s team were struggling to put home keeper Grant Smith under any pressure.

Another ex-Rock, Charlie Oatway, wasn’t far off target with a 25-yard curling free-kick but gradually the Rocks grew in confidence and they threatened from a couple of free-kicks swung into the box before earning a great chance to equalise from the penalty spot.

Dan Thompson nodded a high ball into the patch of Dan Kempson and he was tripped as he skipped into the box.

Penalties have been a problem for the Rocks this season - they have missed their departed spot-kick expert Ashley-Paul Robinson badly - and it was the same story here as Ollie Pearce fizzed his 12-yard effort wide of Smith’s right-hand post.

Thompson was close to the equaliser on 34 minutes with a looping heade but it was brilliantly saved by Smith. Then it was Stoner’s turn to impress in the other goal, pushing away Oatway’s goal-bound effort.

Thompson snatched at a shot and saw it go wide from 22 yards when Dodd was well-placed and the half ended soon after Brighton’s Rohan Ince had struck a tame shot straight at Stoner after Oatway set him up.

The Rocks must have taken great heart from the way they had fought their way into the game in the latter part of the first half but their good work was undone within 20 seconds of the restart when Agdestein raced on to a pass and fired low past Stoner.

Seven minutes later, Agdestein turned provider, working his way to the by-line in the six-yard box before squaring for Barker, who just got a boot in ahead of a defender to make it three.

Now the wind had really been taken out of the Rocks’ sails and they made a double change, with Lewis Stockford and Whyte replacing Doug Tuck and Kempson.

Anton Rodgers, Brennan Dickinson and Barker, all introduced for the start of the second half, had given Brighton an extra spring in their step and the Rocks were struggling to keep them at bay. But they kept on battling and Thompson headed narrowly over the bar when he met a corner at the near post.

Jon Marzetti replaced Pearce and Brighton made it 4-0 with 14 minutes left when Dickenson outpaced Marzetti down the Brighton left and pulled it back for Agdestein to complete his hat-trick.

Stoner and Whyte picked up late bookings and the Rocks’ best hope of a consolation came when Dodd went down in the area - but no penalty was given.

It was a disappointing result for the Rocks and even though some fans would have gone away thinking it could have been so different had Pearce put away his first-half penalty, or the Rocks not conceded a second straight from the second-half restart, Killpartrick’s view was that neither incident changed the course of the game.

So for the second time in four seasons, Brighton can display the cup following a 4-0 final win over Brighton, but at least the Rocks had their big day out to cap a long and at-times hard season - and at least Howell and Killpartrick and their squad can look back on 2012-13 with not a little pride.

Rocks: Stoner, Tuck, Kempson, Crane, Warren, Wollers, Beck, Wills, Thompson, Dodd, Pearce. Subs: Marzetti, Woods, Stockford, Whyte, Boyle.

Brighton: Smith; Akubuine, Jones, Rea, Sampayo; Ince, Richards, Kasim; Oatway, Goodwin, Agdestein. Subs: Walton, Dickenson, Rodgers, Barker, Hunt.

Ref: Graham Kane


See video from the cup final on this website over the next few days and a picture special in the Observer, out Thursday.