Brighton / Potter sets first team target for Aaron Connolly and rules out a loan move

Aaron Connolly impressed on his full debut for Brighton (getty)
Aaron Connolly impressed on his full debut for Brighton (getty)

Brighton manager Graham Potter ruled out a loan move for Aaron Connolly and has challenged the young striker to fight for first team action.

Aaron Connolly, 19, scored on his full debut for Albion as they recorded a 2-1 triumph in the Carabao Cup at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night.

With Florin Andone suspended and Jurgen Locadia linked with a loan move to Hoffenheim, the door could be open for Connolly, who is a regular scorer for the under-23s, to push for a Premier League start.

Potter said, “He’s in our group and he’s competing for a spot in our matchday squad. Training with our players every day is of big benefit to him, and obviously games like this can help him.

“Glenn [Murray] played a bit of a sacrificial role, a bit more off the side to allow Aaron to play through the middle, but he did that really well. I thought they worked really well together.”

Midfielder Steven Alzate, 20, also impressed at Bristol and he teed-up Glenn Murray for the late winner.

Potter added, “They didn’t look out of place, they worked hard, and they’re part of the group. It was important for them to play tonight, get some game time and feel able to be on the pitch with the other guys.

“Application-wise and attitude-wise, they’ve been spot on and worked really hard every single day since I’ve been here.”

“They’re part of our dressing room, and our job is to help them grow. They’ve got quality, but they’re still learning.”

Connolly admitted his goalscoring senior debut is the stand-out moment of his career to date.

“It was a special night because it’s what I’ve been working for ever since I came over here,” said the Irishman.

“It’s the proudest moment of my career so far and it was made even better because my parents were there behind the goal as well.

“I’m just glad to have got my full debut and now it’s about getting out there again. I feel like I’ve started the season well in Premier League 2 and that’s what you want as a striker.”

Connolly also praised the influence of fellow goalscorer Murray. “Glenn pulled me through at the end because I was struggling as I hadn’t played that much senior football.

“To be out on the field with someone with his experience and knowledge is only going to benefit me.

“He was talking to me every few minutes and looked after me out there. He was encouraging me beforehand and to have that on the pitch with me is always a bonus.”

Murray, 35, added: “He [Connolly] got his goal and that’s what he does. He has taken the under-23 league by storm and it’s almost too easy for him with goal after goal.

“He’s taken his opportunity in the cup and got his goal. I thought Steven played very well and was composed in possession and clever in defence as well.

“With the manager in charge, he’s only going to make him better and I expect to see more of him.”