Depleted Albion made a predictable exit from the Worthington Cup, but they went out fighting and gave Ipswich an early fright from an unexpected source.

Dean Hammond celebrated his full debut with a rare goal which fleetingly promised an upset before the under-achieving Suffolk side made their class count.

They effectively wrapped up an entertaining second round tie by the break, scoring three times in the space of 32 minutes.

That sealed the Seagulls' ninth defeat out of ten in all competitions, but there were some significant plus points for manager Martin Hinshelwood.

The most notable was an outstanding display, apart from his goal, by Hammond, the latest youth team product to graduate to the senior ranks.

The 19-year-old midfielder made the most of his opportunity with a composed contribution.

Andy Petterson, returning to a club he has served on loan in the past, had his best match since he was drafted in as cover for Michel Kuipers.

Most importantly of all in the context of the fight for First Division survival, morale on this evidence is undiminished by the awful run of results.

Albion could easily have caved in after the break and suffered a much heavier defeat, which would have been damaging for Saturday's Withdean basement battle against Grimsby.

The Seagulls have developed a habit of conceding early goals this season, so it came as a surprise when they took an eighth minute lead courtesy of the kind of blunder they have all too often been committing themselves.

Andy Marshall, the Ipswich keeper, missed a free-kick swung towards the far post from outside the box by Paul Watson.

Hammond, given the nod over Steve Melton in a three-man midfield, stretched to volley in from close range as Jamie Clapham challenged.

Ipswich, un-nerved by a sequence of four matches without a win, responded like a wounded animal.

The lead lasted only five minutes as Clapham crossed low from the left flank for 18-year-old Darren Bent to sidefoot home from 12 yards.

Bent and his Spanish partner Pablo Counago provided a lively test for Adam Virgo, making his first start of the season alongside Danny Cullip.

They were a real handful and there was an air of inevitability about the goal which put Ipswich ahead midway through the half.

Clapham, finding space in the junction between the Albion area and the halfway line, fashioned it again with a pass through to Counago.

The Spaniard cut inside Virgo to slot his fourth of the campaign from eight yards.

The misfortune plaguing the Seagulls struck again decisively in the closing stages of the first period.

First the injury jinx was increased with the premature departure of John Piercy on only his second appearance for the club.

Hinshelwood maintained a 4-3-3 formation by introducing another of the kids, Chris McPhee, at centre forward, moving Gary Hart back out to the right and switching the fit-again Paul Brooker to the left.

A couple of minutes later Richard Carpenter belted a 25-yard free-kick, earned by Hammond, against the crossbar.

The frustration of coming so close to parity was exacerbated as Ipswich spectacularly stretched their advantage on the stroke of half time.

Darren Ambrose, another 18-year-old, arrowed a 20-yard drive over the diving Petterson. It counted Geoff Hurst style via the underside of the bar, the ref checking with his linesman that the ball had crossed the line before confirming the goal.

The second half threatened to be a non-event. Ipswich, fatigued by a third game in six days, seemed content the contest was already won, while Albion enjoyed plenty of possession in non-dangerous areas.

They needed a second goal to put the outcome in the balance again and McPhee almost provided it with a low shot blocked by Marshall.

Brooker was not far off with a couple of efforts as well before Petterson distinguished himself in an eventful finale. The Australian, having made a fine one-handed stop early on to foil Counago, denied substitute Marcus Bent and namesake Darren.

Right at the death he also spread himself to deflect Marcus Bent's clip onto a post.

Ipswich will probably be a lot higher in the table when they visit Withdean in the League at the end of next month. Albion, with players back, will hope to be by then as well.

Albion: (4-3-3) Petterson (gk) 8; Watson (rb) 7; Mayo (lb) 7; Cullip (cd) 7; Virgo (cd) 6; Carpenter (cm) 7; Hammond (lw) 9; Oatway (rm) 7; Piercy (lw) 6; Brooker (rw) 7; Hart (f) 6. Subs: Rogers for Brooker (withdrawn 89), Melton for Oatway (withdrawn 64), McPhee for Piercy (injured 37), A Hinshelwood, Packham.

Scorers: Hammond (8).

Bookings: Cullip (79, foul).

Half-Time: Ipswich 3 Albion 1.

Attendance: 13,266.

Fan's View: Ray Grop (Hove).

I thought the team did very well.

We certainly were not embarrassed or disgraced at Portman Road.

Dean Hammond made the perfect start and will be certainly one for the future with the Seagulls.

We created a lot more chances than we have in the previous games and I hope that, despite the defeat, this performance builds the confidence up for Saturday's must-win game with visiting Grimsby.

Fingers crossed we will have both goalkeeper Michel Kuipers and striker Bobby Zamora back and we can kick-start our season again.