U21s Swoop for Seagulls Win
The AFC Bournemouth under-21s returned to action on Wednesday with an impressive 3-2 win away at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Taking place at the Seagulls' American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, Jaidon Anthony struck twice inside the opening 12 minutes of the friendly - the first a penalty - as the Cherries made a strong start in East Sussex.
Kyle Taylor added a third after the break to make it 3-0 to the visitors, though late goals from Brighton pair Stefan Vukoje and Jack Spong closed the Cherries' winning margin.
Manager Shaun Cooper saw plenty of positives from his side's performance, their first outing since the spring due to the curtailed season.
"You could see we were rusty at the start and we had to weather an early storm in the opening minutes, but then we put a couple of passes together, restored a bit of calm to regain control and then capitalised with two good goals," he said to afcb.co.uk.
"I thought that across the pitch, once we'd grown into the game, our relationships worked well in all areas, particularly out wide, and that was pleasing to see the lads not take too long to click onto the same wavelength.
"The work rate, reactions and their desire to win a game of football were all there, it was like they hadn't been away, but as you can imagine, we lacked a little bit of sharpness with our passing and when out of possession with our press, but that's to be expected.
"Those are things that won't take too long to put right."
Cooper also praised the group of younger players he was able to bring on into the team later in the match, all coming up against a good Brighton outfit.
He explained: "We had five under-18s who came on and I was pleased with them. They took a little while to get up to speed with the game and it was a tough challenge for them but I thought they handled it okay.
"Brighton were well structured, they had good technical players and were well balanced, which caused us a few problems. Again, it was really pleasing to see the guys out there having to deal with those things, actively trying to find ways to combat what Brighton were doing.
"We exploited their spread back four quite well, as soon as we won the ball back we looked good on the counter and recognised the spaces to attack quite early.
"Brighton were decent and I thought we held our own when we were under the cosh. When we were dominating the game and in control we capitalised with goals, which is what you have to do."
The under-21s are next in action away at Maidenhead next midweek, taking on the Magpies' first team on Wednesday 9th September, the game having a 7pm kick-off.
Cooper spoke about the learnings from this week and how they'll be worked on ahead of the side's next fixture.
"We'll reflect on each individual and what needs refining on the back of Wednesday's performance," he said. "As a team there are some structural tweaks to be made here and there, while continuing to work on the players' sharpness and fitness.
"They were trying the right things out of possession but were just a yard or two short at times, that led to us sitting deep and allowing Brighton to dictate periods with the ball. Once we were able to apply pressure higher up the field we could squeeze the pitch and we won the ball back in dangerous areas.
"We need to just keep working on and doing more of that because the foundation for what we do well as a club and as a team is what we contribute out of possession, with our work rate, our reactions and our press. From there our passing, our balance and our movement were all pretty good, we'll just continue to sharpen those areas."