ARUNDEL Football Club can take a lot of pride from a battling display in their Sussex Senior Cup exit to holders Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday evening.
The Mullets went down 3-0 to Albion’s under-21 side who included a wealth of young talent, including some with Championship and even international credentials.
Two exquisite strikes from the impressive Solly March either side of half-time and Brennan Dickenson’s goal after springing the Arundel offside trap in the first half, saw the holders ease into the last 16 of the competition.
Arundel set up to contain and it was a grafting display from the back four with some superb stops from goalkeeper James Fernandes, as their full-time opponents controlled the game.
Seagulls centre-half Tom Dallison had the first chance of the evening, but he volleyed wide when a corner fell nicely for him at the back of the area.
At the other end, Arundel’s Lewis Jenkins broke forward and things opened up ahead of him inviting him to shoot, but Grant Smith was equal to his low strike from outside the area.
A speculative Dickenson drive from distance was then comfortable for Fernandes, before Arundel had a great chance on 13 minutes.
The towering Scott Tipper rose highest at the far post to power a header from a lofted free kick at Smith, which the Albion stopper again had to parry.
At the other end, the young Seagulls - led by captain and Latvian international Vitalijs Maksimenko - continued to ask questions with Charles Harris and March failing to get efforts on target.
A great jinking run by March saw him skip past two Arundel defenders and deliver a cracking ball into the box, but there was no-one there to profit from his good work.
Mullets then conceded on 31 minutes as Nathan Da Costa slid in on the edge area to give away a silly free kick and March beautifully curled home around the wall with Fernandes rooted to the spot.
It was almost two soon afterwards, but Fernandes pulled off a top-class save when one-one-one with March after Arundel had made a mess of clearing their lines on 40 minutes.
Just two minutes later, however, and the Albion did double their lead as Dickenson sprung the offside trap and finished well past Fernandes into the far corner.
It was one-way traffic after the break as Albion moved the ball sharply throughout the pitch and Smith was little more than a spectator.
On 53 minutes, March’s free kick on the left was curled in with his left foot, and Glen Rea got across Fernandes, only to see his header cannon off the underside of the bar and drop onto the line.
Albion again started to try their luck from range, before substitute James Muitt cut in and dragged his effort just wide, while Fernandes pulled off a cracking stop in another one-one-one situation as the offside trap was again breached.
Brighton did add a third on 75 minutes as March again perfectly curled home into the corner with his left foot, this time from open play, as the Arundel defence stood off him on the edge of the box.
Fernandes got down well to deny Albion a fourth on 85 minutes as Dickenson latched onto a deep Muitt cross to send a rocket towards the Arundel goal.
Arundel joint manager Craig Stuart was satisfied with his side’s display and is hoping to take the positives from the performance into their league campaign.
He said: “Don’t get me wrong, we were outplayed for 90 minutes, but we set out to contain them and we did that well.
“I am really proud of the team, I could be a bit critical of the first goal but we really worked hard.
“We set up to keep the shape and we did that well, considering we don’t usually play 4-5-1.
“Solly scored a couple of cracking goals and that’s the quality Brighton have. You are never happy after a defeat, but I have to be happy after that performance.
“It was great to have Jordan Dudas back after eight months out as he’s a cracking footballer and If we can take that performance back into the league then we won’t finish anywhere near the bottom three.”
ARUNDEL: Fernandes; Da Costa, Bibb, Peake, Gibb; R.Biggs, Jenkins, A.Biggs, Hardwell, Jearum; Tipper. Subs: J.Biggs (Jeaurm 59), Dudas, Wotherspoon (A.Biggs, Hardwell 67).
ALBION: Smith; Rea, Chicksen, Asmundsson, Dallison, Maksimenko, Hunt, Harris, Deen, March, Dickenson. Subs: Muitt (Dallison 62), Barnett (Chicksen 73), Wiltshire (Harris 77), Wray, Hutchinson.