Derby County’s Under-23s got their 2021/22 Premier League 2 - Division 1 season started with a 2-0 defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion at Pride Park Stadium on Monday night.
Goalkeeper Harrison Foulkes made a number of superb saves in the opening 45 minutes for Derby, including a penalty stop from Lorent Tolaj, before the visitors upped the ante in the second half.
Cam Peupion drove home the opening goal of the game after 65 minutes before a header from substitute Ewan Ferguson five minutes later put the game beyond Pat Lyons’ youthful side.
Brighton played out the latter stages with ten men after James Furlong was sent off for two bookable offences, but they managed to keep the Rams at bay to take all three points.
With several members of the Under-23s squad currently with the first-team, Lyons included several first-year professionals in the starting line-up - while all five substitutes came from Adam Robinson’s Under-18s.
The match was only a few minutes old when there was a lengthy break in play after Derby winger Tyree Wilson went down in a significant amount of pain holding his left knee after competing for an early challenge.
Wilson was eventually carried off the field on a stretcher and was replaced by Marko Borkovic, who scored in the Under-18s’ 3-0 win at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Clear chances were limited in the opening stages, with the best attempts in the opening 30 minutes coming Derby’s way as a result of some good football.
A blocked effort from Borkovic after good work by Will Grewal-Pollard down the left and a cross-shot from Max Bardell, which forced Brighton goalkeeper Tom McGill into action at his near post, were the Rams’ best attacking moments of the half.
At the other end, Derby were indebted to some fine goalkeeping from Foulkes to keep the game goalless.
Foulkes, making his competitive debut for the Under-23s after joining the club from Hull City in the summer, made a good stop from Peupion as he burst clear on goal just after the half hour mark as the visitors began to turn the screw.
Peupion was at the heart of the action once again as the half edged towards its conclusion.
Bardell brought the winger down in the box to present the visitors with a chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot. Foulkes, however, came out on top as he threw himself to his right to push Tolaj’s low effort away from danger.
The 20-year-old was called into action once more in the final seconds of the half as he made a fingertip save to deny Andy Moran from inside the box, pushing the ball behind for a corner.
Following a quiet start to the second half, in which neither side was able to dominate and with little noteworthy action, Brighton broke the deadlock after 65 minutes.
Peupion was the man on target, lashing the ball first-time past Foulkes from 12 yards from Furlong’s low delivery from the left-hand side.
Their second goal followed five minutes later, before Derby had chance to respond, as substitute Ferguson rose highest at the far post to connect with another Furlong cross.
After providing two assists, Furlong saw his evening take a turn for the worse on 72 minutes as he was sent off for a second bookable offence for hacking down Bardell as he drove towards the penalty area from the right-hand side.
Derby pushed for a way back into the game as they strived to make their numerical advantage count, but they were unable to find a way through the Seagulls’ stubborn backline.
The closest they came was via substitute Osazee Aghatise as
his deflected cross from the right forced McGill into a good save at his near
post at the expense of a corner, while striker Bart Cybulski drew a save from the visitiing goalkeeper a few seconds later with a low drive.
The Under-23s are back in action in a week’s time when they make the short journey across the East Midlands to face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Monday 23rd August (7pm kick-off).
Derby County Under-23s: Foulkes, Bardell, Grewal-Pollard, L Thompson, Soloman, Cashin (C), S Thompson (Robinson 82), De Gracia, Cybulski, Matthews (Aghatise 63), Wilson (Borkovic 11).
Substitutes Not Used: Brailsford, Roberts.
Brighton & Hove Albion Under-23s: McGill, Packham, Tsoungui, Turns, Furlong, Molumby (Hinchy 71), Spong, Peupion, Leonard (C), Moran (Offiah 77), Tolaj (Ferguson 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Desbois, Miller.