In the final match of Harry Kewell’s first year in charge, Crawley Town let slip a one goal lead to lose 2-1 to Brighton under 23s in the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup final.
Here are five things we learnt:
Frantic five minutes cost Crawley
After a somewhat uninspiring first 45 minutes, a 0-0 stalemate looked a strong possibility, but an own goal by Josh Kerr gave Crawley the lead midway through the second half and they looked on course to end the season with some silverware against the seemingly luckless Seagulls.
This would have provided some much welcome glory to an up and down season for a Crawley side who were threatened by relegation in the early stages, before mounting a play-off challenge after the turn of the year and then falling by the wayside in the final months.
However, this wasn’t to be, as a lack of concentration led to Brighton scoring twice and missing a penalty within just three minutes as the game was approaching its conclusion.
In an even game which could have gone either way, Brighton had their fair share of chances and probably deserved the equaliser, but Kewell would have been desperately disappointed to see his first season in charge end in such a way when cup glory was so close.
Absentees take toll
Due to a high number of absentees, Harry Kewell had a squad of just 13 players to choose from going into the game, leaving him with just two options on the bench - Kaby Djalo and goalkeeper Glenn Morris.
Jimmy Smith, Thomas Verheydt, Mark Connolly, Mark Randall, Jordan Roberts, Josh Lelan, Josh Doherty and Panutche Camara were all ruled out injured, Dean Cox was unavailable while Karlan Ahearne-Grant was recalled back to parent club Charlton.
This provided opportunities to fringe players such as Billy Clifford, Moussa Sanoh and Djalo, while Yusuf Mersin also got a rare start in goal, and all four would have been looking to stake a claim to be part of Kewell’s plans for next season.
However, the number of absentees took its toll, as Brighton scored twice, either side of a missed penalty, in the final 15 minutes to turn the game on its head after an own goal had given Crawley the lead.
We’ll never know what the outcome would have been if Kewell had a full squad at his disposal, but there is no doubt it had a detrimental impact on the game, with only a goalkeeper sitting on the bench after Crawley fell behind with five minutes to go.
More strength in depth needed?
Kewell will be thankful that this injury crisis didn’t happen during their league campaign, but it comes as a timely reminder that more depth is needed in the squad.
Eight injuries is obviously a rare occurrence, but one outfield player on the bench shows that more signings are needed in the summer to prevent the same problem happening again.
Kewell will have his ideas for what changes will be made over the summer, but it remains unknown to the rest of us who remains in his plans and who he will be looking to bring in.
Mersin impresses after rare starting berth
It may have been hard to tell from the performance to unknowing spectators, but Yusuf Mersin was making only his sixth start of the season.
This is perhaps no surprise when you take the form of Glenn Morris into consideration, as the 34-year-old has been nothing short of superb this season, but Mersin has proved he is a worthy replacement when needed.
Standing at 6ft 5, it is no surprise the Turk opted to be a 'keeper, and he made the most of his height against Brighton with several top drawer stops, including a penalty save with the score a 1-1.
He can’t be blamed for either of the goals that went by him, particularly the second, which was a bullet-header into the top corner leaving him with no chance.
However, he was to blame for giving away the penalty which, although he saved, resulted in the corner that Brighton got their winner from.
It must be noted that he is still only 23, so there is plenty of time to cut out those little errors from his game and be a regular starter in the not too distant future.
Brighton prove worth of home-grown talent
If you look around Crawley’s team, it can be said that there is a lack of home-grown talent in the first team squad which is possibly something which can be looked into, as its worth in the game was proved by Brighton last night.
James Tilley, 19, from Billingshurst, was arguably the best player on the pitch at the Amex, and someone of his youth and talent would not look out of place in this Crawley team should he not be called up to Brighton’s first team anytime soon.