Albion Analysis: #2 Colchester United, 9th August 2016
Brighton and Hove Albion progressed to the second round of the EFL Cup with a convincing 4-0 victory over Colchester United at the Amex on Tuesday night.
Manager Chris Hughton made 11 changes from the side that drew at Derby at the weekend, with three Under 23 players making their senior debuts for the club.
Ben White, who signed his first professional contract this summer, made the biggest claim to start against Nottingham Forest on Friday with a fantastic performance.
His defensive positioning and commandment of the air was clear to see, and it limited Colchester to any worthwhile chances during the whole 90 minutes.
Hughton could only praise him during his post match interviews, and there would be no harm in giving him another opportunity so early into the season.
It would also allow Bruno to return to his best position at right back, although White would need to form a very quick partnership with Lewis Dunk at the heart of Brighton’s backline against far better opponents.
Fellow under 23 players Rob Hunt and Sam Adekugbe also played the full game at right and left back respectively. They both worked extremely hard up and down the flanks to provide an option going forward and then track the Colchester wingers back.
The quality of all three’s performances just how far the youth side has progressed under Simon Rusk.
Perhaps allowing the youngsters to play in the recently revamped EFL Trophy isn’t such a bad idea, as it will provide them with the opportunity to play more fixtures against opponents of Colchester’s level, as well as prepare them better for the first team.
Ahead of the defence, Albion fans were treated to see new signing Oliver Norwood make his debut for the Seagulls in centre midfield.
The Northern Irish man made a decent start to his Albion career as he was involved in most of the Albion chances in the first half.
His set piece and passing ability was on show occasionally, as he came close twice to assisting Brighton’s opener.
He also had an effort just before half time fizz just wide of the post from 20 yards.
But for me, he still remains a little rusty after helping Northern Ireland reach the last 16 of the Euros this summer; and it paved dividend in the second half as he faded out of the game and became less influential.
However, he could easily slot in alongside Beram Kayal in place of Steve Sidwell against Forest in order to give more match time with his new team mates and allow them to gel further.
Hughton’s biggest selection test for Friday however, remains to be the wingers.
Kazenga LuaLua and Jamie Murphy were Albion’s dynamic duo, as they tore the Colchester defence to pieces in the final 25 minutes.
Murphy scored twice, including a very fine solo effort, whilst LuaLua assisted in two of Albion’s goals.
Most will say Anthony Knockaert is a certainty for the right wing position, and I would probably go with that, seeing as he is our most creative player and can change a game in an instant.
That therefore leaves three wingers fighting out for the left side of midfield; Murphy, LuaLua and Jiri Skalek.
Whilst Skalek provides the biggest threat offensively with his delivery ability, one cannot simply ignore the performances by both Murphy and LuaLua last night, even if it was against Colchester.
All three will be confident going into Friday’s match, and I reckon Chris will be constantly changing his mind right up to game day.
Even the Albion strikers last night made claims for a starting position after both found the target.
Sam Baldock and Elvis Manu scored their first goals of the campaign respectively, and with Tomer Hemed and Glenn Murray firing blanks at Derby, would it be worth bringing in the pace of either Baldock or Manu to freshen up the side?
Baldock in particular impressed with an energetic performance. Last night’s stand in captain opened the scoring with a lovely curled effort into the top right corner and will be as eager as anyone to do the same against Forest.
Some will read this and think hang on, we played extremely well up at Derby so why change it?
I completely agree, we did play well, and we have no need to change the side from last weekend for the Forest match, but the cup game last night showed us how competitive this squad is now.
Where we have failed ever so slightly with our team up to now is squad depth. Whilst some may think we still don’t have enough and need to bring more in, I think we have raw quality coming through the youth sides nowadays compared to five or six years ago. For me, they deserve an opportunity to show us and the manager just how good they are on the biggest of stages.
We have a healthy competition for places, and that can only do more good than harm.
The joys of being a manager, eh Chris?