Denis Undav opens his goal account as Brighton’s youngsters cash in

It was business as usual for Brighton & Hove Albion as they coasted into the third round of the Carabao Cup after easing past Forest Green Rovers courtesy of first-half goals by Deniz Undav and Steven Alzate and a stoppage-time strike by Evan Ferguson. Victory for Graham Potter’s side maintained their glistening start to the season and earned them a trip to Arsenal. For the 1,000-plus Brighton supporters housed in the away terrace, this was a look into the future with eight teenagers featuring on the night as Potter gave six players their full debuts.

At the final whistle Potter and Ian Burchnall shook hands, hugged and no doubt cast their minds back to their first meeting as rookie managers, when the pair were at the centre of student rivalries coaching university teams part-time in Leeds. Before kick-off Forest Green manager Burchnall gave Potter and his longstanding assistant, Billy Reid, whose apartment Burchnall moved into after succeeding Potter at Ostersund in Sweden, and first-team coach, Bjorn Hamberg, a warm embrace. “I spoke to Graham about Evan Ferguson over the summer and he’s a top player,” Burchnall said.

The last time the pair faced each other was when Burchnall took his Viking team to Ostersund, 600km north of Stockholm, for a friendly. This was a contrasting backdrop on a balmy evening on an organic pitch in the Cotswolds at a stadium surrounded by rolling hills. Described by Fifa as the greenest club in the world, Forest Green pride themselves on sustainability and are recognised as carbon neutral by the United Nations.

Brighton, as they did successfully in this competition at Cardiff last season, dissected lower-league opposition despite wholesale changes. Undav, who was prolific last season on loan at Union Saint-Gilloise, the Belgian club also owned by the Brighton chairman Tony Bloom, opened his Brighton account with a smart finish after being slipped in by the 17-year-old Ferguson. Levi Colwill looked composed on his first start since joining on loan from Chelsea, as did Kaoru Mitoma, a Japanese international. Tariq Lamptey made his first start of the season and Alzate, who doubled Brighton’s lead with a low strike from 20 yards, was among the more experienced in the Brighton starting lineup.

Forest Green forced an early corner in front of the Sustainably in Sport terrace but aside from a curled effort by Corey O’Keefe 10 minutes before the interval they had few sights of goal. In the second half Josh March had a shot repelled by Jason Steele, who deputised for the former Forest Green loanee Robert Sanchez, and from the resulting corner Ben Stevenson skewed a half-volley wide. Brighton should have made it 3-0 on 64 minutes after the impressive Ferguson beat the offside trap and calmly lifted the ball towards the back post but Undav steered his header off target.

But Ferguson deservedly got on the scoresheet to cap a fine display just as the minds of the away fans turned to Leeds on Saturday. “I wouldn’t say it was comfortable,” Potter said. “If Forest Green had scored it would have made it difficult.”

The Forest Green substitute Jamille Matt saw an effort turned behind with 20 minutes to play and the subsequent corner caused a panic before Brighton scrambled clear. The hosts did not relent and forced a couple of chances late on but Steele kept out a Kyle McAllister shot and saw another loop kindly into his grasp. “The second goal is a killer, because if we go in [at half-time] at 1-0, we’ve got a chance,” Burchnall said. “They showed they’ve got Premier League quality.”