Forest Green Rovers grabbed a bonus point in the Papa John’s Trophy by defeating ten-man Brighton Under-21s 5-3 on penalties after the game finished 2-2.
Leading marksman Matty Stevens bagged a double and handed Rovers the lead from the penalty spot in the 27th minute after Josh March had been fouled by Sam Packham.
Floppy haired striker Todd Miller netted parity for Brighton seven minutes later, but they were reduced to ten men just after the break when Antef Tsoungui tugged Stevens
Stevens regained Rovers’ lead in the 56th minute, touching home a March flick, but the powerful Lorent Tolaj pounced to force the game to penalties.
Lewis Thomas superbly gloved Marc Leonard’s kick, and Rovers scored all five of their penalties, with the outstanding Jake Young hitting the winner.
Rob Edwards named four academy players, with Marcel McIntosh – a 17-year-old, second-year scholar, starting in defence for the first time.
Murphy Bennett also made his debut against Brighton, coming on as an 85th-minute substitute. He recently started in Wales Under-18s’ 1-1 draw vs England Under-18s at Spytty Park in September. The 16-year-old started his career at Manchester City. Fin Bell also impressed when coming on at the death.
Rovers: Thomas; McIntosh (Bennett 85), Bernard, Cargill; Edwards, Diallo, Evans (Bell 90), Allen; Young; March, Stevens (Aitchison 59).
Subs not used: McGee, Stevenson, Hendry, Carter.