Jay Stansfield scored his return to competitive football as Fulham’s under 18s won a pulsating nine-goal thriller against Brighton and Hove Albion this morning.

The teenage striker, fast tracked into Scott Parker’s first team last year after an incredible first season after signing from Exeter last summer, hasn’t played since October after fracturing his ankle in training. Stansfield made his mark a matter of minutes after coming on as a second half substitute – heading home an excellent cross from Tyler Caton to ensure that Steve Wigley’s side returned to the top of the table.

The young Whites got off to the perfect start when Matt Dibley-Dias curled a delightful free-kick into the top corner from 20 yards and Luciano D’Auria-Henry hit the base of the post after a flowing move down the right a few minutes later. In an incredibly open start, Brighton were dangerous as well with Cameron Peupion crowded out as he let fly from just inside the box.

Albion did find a leveller on eighteen minutes when Zak Emerson finished clinically past Dermot Mee from close range – but Fulham were quick to respond. Scottish forward Kieron Bowie put the home side back in front when he raced onto a through ball and fired home just two minutes later.

Fulham’s lead only lasted for a further two minutes, however. Andy Moran equalised for the south coast side with a well-taken finish from an acute angle after he had worked a clever one-two on the edge of the box. Mee, a recent arrival from Manchester United, had to save smartly from Marcus Ifill to prevent Brighton from taking the lead.

The Whites went ahead ten minutes before the break when highly-rated defender Stefan Parkes stole in at a free-kick and volleyed home at the far post. The extraordinary end-to-end nature of this absorbing contest continued after the interval with Albion unfortunate not to level matters for a third time. Xavier Benjamin did superbly to prevent a dangerous cross from reaching Emerson and Moran could only find the side netting having latched onto the loose ball.

Mika Biereth was denied a Fulham fourth from the penalty spot thanks to a fine save from the Brighton goalkeeper but the teenage forward didn’t allow that miss to dent his confidence. Biereth was not to be denied his seventh goal of the season – gleefully thumping home a rebound after Bowie had seen a goalbound shot bravely blocked.

Bowie then gave Fulham some much-needed breathing space, calmly converting a one-on-one by rounding the goalkeeper, before Stansfield stole the show after his introduction from the bench. Peupion did poke home a consolation with three minutes to play, but Whites ran out comfortable winners in the end.

FULHAM U18s: Mee; D’Auria-Henry, Parkes, Bowat, Araujo; Benjamin, Dibley-Dias; Olakigbe, Lanquedoc; Bowie, Biereth. Subs: Glover, Antonsson, Caton, Wildbore, Stansfield.