The final of the Sussex Under-21s Challenge Cup is due to take place on Tuesday 10 April 2018 between Horsham YMCA and East Preston.
Horsham YMCA vs. East Preston
Date: Tuesday 10 April 2018
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX
This year marks the introduction of the Sussex Under-21s Challenge Cup and the finalists are no strangers to each other having met twice in their league this season.
The first fixture finished 5-3 to Horsham YMCA and the most recent match ended in a 1 all draw.
Horsham YMCA have been established for fifty years and the club as a whole have had County Cup success after lifting the Sussex Principal RUR Charity Cup in seasons 2000/01 and 2013/14.
The Under-21 side are in their second season since forming and manager, Dave Jeal believes that his side have the quality to go all the way: “It’s a fantastic, brilliant achievement and it’s a good opportunity for our young players.
“A lot of these lads have played at a decent junior level and I’m not sure whether they have actually got to a County Cup Final but I am confident in their ability.”
Dave Jeal, who has a vast amount of experience within youth football around the local area, joined the club in 2016 after receiving an invitation from Horsham YMCA to take on their Under-21s side. The team are currently sitting second in the Southern Combination Football League – Under-21 West section and despite their league campaign being out of their hands due to points, they still have hopes of topping the league.
Although the league title may be an unlikely prospect, Jeal is pleased that his team have the opportunity to gain some recognition for the terrific season they are having: "Tuesday will be tough, they are a tough opposition.
“We might not win the league but it would be great if we could win this.
“We have beaten them and drawn against them this season but really if I am honest, we should be the favourites if you look at league standings.”
Jeal is confident and believes in his squads’ capability and says that his sides’ journey to the final was ‘comfortable’. “We have played really well in most games this season and in our cup run I didn’t feel like we were going to lose, it was very comfortable.
“Our first team who have a number of youngsters in have a league match tomorrow evening but I have a full strength squad to pick from, plus one or two senior players” he said proudly.
East Preston Under-21s were also formed in 2016 shortly after the appointment of Bob Paine as club manager who came from managing Worthing FC Under-21s. It was then decided to create the team with an aim to produce quality players to feed into the first team and current Under-21s manager, Craig Stuart said: “We wanted to have a continuous flow of younger players coming through and the rebuilding started from forming Under-18 and Under-21 sides.
“We’re not blessed with a lot of money so the best way to produce youngsters is by providing an outlet for them to develop in so they are ready for senior football.”
After 6 years of being in charge of Arundel, Stuart relocated to East Preston as assistant manager to the first team and shortly after that got asked to take on the role as the under-21s boss.
Although East Preston have had a tough debut season in the league, Stuart insists that things will only get better for the club: “We are bottom of the league at the moment, but we have games in hand and if we win them that will take us to mid-table.
“We had a very slow start but it’s been a transitional period of us and now we have only been beaten once in nine games which is a huge improvement.
“We beat Pagham in the semi-final and that shows how far we have come because they won our league last season.”
Stuart, who joined half way through last season stresses that this is a turning point for the club despite admitting that his side are under-dogs for Tuesday evenings final.
“For the club as a whole it’s huge, but for the players it’s a big achievement because it shows how they have improved and developed throughout the season.
“It’s great to have this club in this position and even better to have a solid foundation building,” he said.
Stuart is fully aware of the talent Horsham YMCA have and knows that his team will have to be at their best to be in for a chance of being the first ever club to have their name engraved on to the brand new shiny cup: “They Are very, very good and it’s going to be tough.
“They are a strong agile team and last time we played them we drew one all, so we know that we can compete against them.
“If we play at our full potential then we have got a good chance of winning, but YMCA will certainly be favourites.”
East Preston have been struck with some bad luck after a couple of their stronger players have been ruled out due to injury and therefore Stuart has no choice but to play a couple of senior players in tomorrow’s final: “We are limited for tomorrow due to injury and ineligible players but we will have some seniors in our squad and we will use their experience to our advantage."
Entry prices for the final are as follows:
£5.00 Adult (17+)
£3.00 Concession (65+ and students with valid student ID card)
FREE Child (16 and under)
For further details about the Sussex Under-21s Challenge Cup, please contact Competitions:
T: 01903 753547