Graham Potter makes Aaron Connolly declaration after his double helps Brighton advance in Carabao Cup
Graham Potter declared his 'love' for striker Aaron Connolly after his first half brace helped Brighton to a 2-0 Carabao Cup win against Swansea at the Amex Stadium.
Connolly struggled with form and fitness last season and got this campaign off to shaky start when he was left out of the matchday squad at Burnley due to disciplinary issues.
The striker returned from the recent international break with a glute issue and did not feature in the Premier League wins against Leicester and Brentford.
The Ireland international however returned to the starting line-up for the Carabao contest and looked sharp as he fired a first half brace to help Albion advance to the fourth round.
"I thought he took the goals really well and it's great for him in terms of his confidence," said Potter. "Aaron's a good kid, a nice kid and there is no problem in terms of that at all.
"He is sometimes young and wants to play and he can get frustrated. That is how he is. Everyone loves him here.
"We want to help him reach his full capacity. He is young, he will make mistakes and it will not be a straight road for him but the quality is there.
"Tonight will have helped him in terms of his finishing but he contributed to the team defensively, he worked well and his reactions were good. He gets his reward and delighted for him.
The Republic of Ireland international had only one goal to his name in the calendar year before his 33rd-minute deflected strike broke the deadlock at the Amex.
The Seagulls number seven was played in by Alexis Mac Allister down the left and made his way into the box before taking a shot which deflected past the goalkeeper off a defender who was trying to make the block.
Connolly added his and Brighton’s second just five minutes later.
He was played in again by Mac Allister but had more to do, running past a defender before expertly placing the ball into the far corner and out of reach of Benda.
Swansea hit the woodwork twice in the second half but were unable to force a comeback, unlike their 3-3 draw against Luton at the weekend when they were three goals behind.
Just before the final whistle, Brighton almost added a third when substitute Pascal Gross’ free-kick from just outside the area hit the bar.
There was also an encouraging 45 minutes for wing back Tariq Lamptey who was making his first appearance since last December following a hamstring injury.
"45 minutes was always the plan," said Potter. "We felt it was good for him to start the game so he has the warm-up and mentally he knows what he is doing. He did well. It did not look like it was a struggle for him.
"But we need to see how he recovers and then make a decision [on whether he will be involved against Palace]. He could be an option off the bench but whether he starts could be a step for him.
"We need to be careful and see how he recovers and assess it day by day."
There was also an impressive debut for defender Ed Turns, while Marc Leonard was a late starter in the midfield after Enock Mwepu tweaked his groin in the warm-up.
"Ed Turns was really good, making his debut and Haydon Roberts alongside him so two young centre backs at the start of their careers.
"Marc Leonard was also really good in midfield, so we have had a good evening and nice to go through."