Extra-time drama sees Sussex retain Championship
Sussex retained the Under-18 South East Counties Youth Championship with a dramatic 3-2 win against Essex, with the winning goal coming late into extra-time.
The game started in an even manner, played on a perfect pitch at Sheppey United in warm temperatures. The first action came after 3 minutes when Rob Deda put a free-kick just wide for Sussex.
Minutes later Essex took an early lead, when young Sussex centre back Luca Cocoracchio tried to play into midfield but the ball was stolen high up the pitch by Essex, Misha Djemaili powered down the left side and his angled shot nestled into the corner of the net making it 1-0 to Essex.
Essex were creating chances regularly, with a good opportunity for Kieran Southgate but his header went just wide following a cross from Tyler Richardson.
On 10 minutes, Sussex got back into the game following a moment of sheer brilliance from Jasper Pattenden. He picked up the ball, and cut in-field from the left wing, he then curled a sublime shot high into the net from 25 yards, a fantastic strike to equalise for Sussex.
The game settled down following the 2 early goals, with chances becoming scarce for the next 20 minutes with both defences being on top.
The remaining minutes before half-time were manic, as the game suddenly opened up. Firstly, Wyan Reid had a shot for Essex that went just side.
Albert Keith then had further attempt for Essex which deflected into the arms of Sussex Goalkeeper Luke Glover. The chances continued; Afolabi Soyemi-Oloade shot over after good work by full back Sam Mvemba. From the resulting goal kick, Soyemi-Oloade intercepted the ball and had a shot blocked, and then was put through again and his shot was fumbled but well saved by Glover.
All of this was in a couple of crazy minutes, and the action didn’t stop there. Up the other end Ricky Aguier found space and his shot rattled off the post. To end a breathless 5 minutes, Deda had a shot for Sussex that was blocked and the Referee blew for half-time with the score 1-1.
The second-half kicked off and continued in a similar vein to the first. Reid had a shot for Essex which was skewed wide from a good position and Lewis Broughton had a free-kick ricochet to safety.
Mvemba was a constant threat to Sussex with his pace and power, and on 49 minutes he skipped down the left, but his cross clipped the crossbar before going behind.
In a similar way to the win for Sussex against Hertfordshire, the game was changed by substitutes, and again the introduction of Essah Jennah.
This was shown when Broughton did some brilliant work down the left side, he dribbled into the box and moved the ball towards the back post where Jennah was waiting to tap in and make it 2-1 to Sussex.
The chances continued to flow, with Aguier putting a free-kick on target in the 66th minute and Jennah trying his luck with a spectacular long range effort moments later.
The game settled down again through the middle part of the half, with Sussex defending well and Essex probing for the equaliser. They pushed forward with greater intensity in the final 10 minutes.
Mvemba was causing issues again, and his mazy run forward was only stopped by a cynical foul. Southgate put in a great cross which was punched clear by Glover under pressure.
As the game entered injury time, Essex grabbed an equaliser when Southgate cut into the box and found a bit of space before hitting an early shot into the goal. Sussex had no time to respond, so at full-time it was 2-2, with extra-time to be played.
From the kick off Alfie Rogers of Sussex tried an audacious long range shot which sailed just over. Sussex were now dominating possession through this period, and looked more likely to score. Deda cut in from the left wing and had a shot deflected over.
The game moved towards Sussex in the 3rd minute of extra-time, when Mvemba of Essex was sent off for a 2nd Yellow Card. Sussex were now fully in charge, and looked like creating a winning goal.
Rob Malia and Pattenden combined well to set up a chance for Jennah, but he scuffed his shot. Pattenden was involved again, to provide for Jennah but his shot was saved well.
Essex did create a chance before half time in extra-time, but the shot from Callum Fitzer was saved by Glover. Sussex continued to have the upper hand in the second half time extra-time, but couldn’t find the elusive goal.
Harrison Parker did well on 106 minutes but his cross couldn’t be converted by Rogers. Pattenden always looked dangerous, and his shot on 116 minutes went just wide.
As it looked like the game was drifting towards penalties, Malia picked up the ball with 2 minutes to play. He beat a player in the right channel, and made space for a great cross to the back post where Pattenden was waiting to steer a header into the goal to spark jubilant celebrations from the players and coaches in the corner.
Sussex held out for the final few minutes to secure a wonderful 3-2 victory in the most dramatic fashion. The final was a credit to both teams, with great quality on show.
The Championship trophy was handed to Captain Alfie Rogers, who invited Manager Paul Atkinson to lift it with him in a great act of respect.
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
(Video highlights are available above and also on YouTube - courtesy of Film My Match)
Goals: 2-3; Shots: 11-13; Shots-on-target: 6-4; Corners: 3-4, Fouls: 16-25; Offside: 3-3; Yellow cards: 5-3; Red cards: 1-0.
Essex: Scammell, Knight, Mvemba, Reid, McQueen, Jolliffe, Richardson, Djemaili, Southgate, Keith, Soyemi-Ololade.
Subs: Fitzer, Soganile, Demontagnac, Salawa.
Sussex: Glover, Daly, Broughton, Goldsmith, Cororacchio, Walsh, Deda, Mott, Rogers, Gould, Pattenden.
Subs: Aquirre, Cocklin, Parker, Malia, Jennah.
Match report by Ollie Powell