AFC Varndeanians winners of the Sussex John Davey Cup Final  (under 16s)

Varndeanians stun Boro to win the John Davey Cup

Eastbourne Borough 1 - 3 AFC Varndeanians

AFC Varndeanians completed a dramatic late turnaround against Eastbourne Borough at Culver Road on Sunday evening to win the Sussex John Davey Cup (under-16s).

Eastbourne had taken the lead from the penalty spot on the hour mark and looked destined to win the silverware but for an equaliser six minutes from time. Varndeanians then took the lead in the final minute of regulation time before wrapping things up with a third goal deep into added time.

The opening exchanges were evenly contested as both sides sized each other up. Eastbourne’s Adam Bateman stood out early on and throughout the game for his very dominant aerial ability.

Varndeanians had the first notable opportunity as the dynamic Marshall Smith nipped in-front of his marker to beat Boro keeper Henry Lankston to the ball, but he could only manage to steer his effort into the side netting with the goal gaping.

The aforementioned Bateman showed he was just as powerful on the deck as he was in the air, with a powerful free-kick from the edge of the area smashed goal-wards, which Stephen Beasley in the AFC goal did well to hold.

Beau Langan impressed in midfield for the Varndeanians and he saw his deflected effort saved by Lankston and moments later he met Soren Bentley’s delicious delivery clean on the volley, only for it to fizz narrowly over the crossbar.

There was still time for Eastbourne to squander two chances before the half was over. George Cook played Jack Hobden in behind the Varndeanians defence but the striker dragged his shot wide of the far post; he then tried his luck from distance which curled just wide of the target.

The vocal crowd of one hundred and twenty six were treated to an enthralling second-half encounter.

Eastbourne shot out of the blocks with Archie Collett racing away from the AFC defence to get on the end of Bateman’s long ball over the top but he fired straight at Beasley when well placed.

Minutes later Collett spurned another opportunity for Boro as his shot from the edge of the area flew over the crossbar.

Fifteen minutes into the second period and the game started to have a more open feel to it. Langan again tested Lankston’s handling with a strike at goal which the Eastbourne keeper gathered at the second attempt.

Straight down the other end Hobden, who was causing all sorts of problems for the Varndeanians back line, turned inside his marker brilliantly before firing straight at Beasley.

Then, on the hour mark, Eastbourne were awarded a penalty. Hobden chased a lofted ball and as he looked to latch on to it inside the area he was wiped out by Beasley leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot. Cook stepped up and dispatched the penalty with aplomb.

Boro had a fantastic opportunity to double their lead a couple of minutes later. An in-swinging corner was met on the volley by skipper Daniel Blackmore four yards out, but off balance he could only direct his effort up and over Lankston’s crossbar.

With just six minutes remaining the Varndeanians equalised. A Boro goal-kick was headed back the way it came by Kaine Starks and Rex Lane was in, the substitute kept his cool to slot the ball low past the advancing Lankston and into the net.

The game looked to be heading for extra-time but AFC had other ideas. Langan forced Lankston into fine one handed diving save before Marley Ambler flipped the game on its head leaving the Eastbourne players and supporters stunned.

Ambler strode forward with the ball and rolled in Lane, his low shot was save by Lankston, but only into the path of Ambler, who had continued his run into the box and he tucked the ball past Blackmore on the line to spark jubilant celebrations in the main stand.

Following the match victorious AFC Varndeanians manager, Darren Barker, said: “It was a very, very good game. We were up against it and probably weren’t the best team in the first-half, but we done brilliantly to pull through in second.

“After going 1-0 down we showed so much character to bring it back and turn the game around, it was absolutely fantastic, I’m delighted!”

AFC Varndeanians celebrate winning the Sussex John Davey Cup Final (under-16s)
HIGHLIGHTS - Eastbourne Borough vs. AFC Varndeanians
Watch highlights of AFC Varndeanians 3-1 victory over Eastbourne Borough. 

(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 FilmMyMatch)

Stats: (Eastbourne Borough-AFC Varndeanians)
Goals: 1-3; Shots: 13-10; Shots-on-target: 5-7; Corners: 2-5; Fouls: 7-15; Offside: 1-0; Yellow cards: 2-2; Red cards: 0-0.

Eastbourne Borough: Lankston, Gausden, Shand, Bateman, Jackson, Blackmore ©, Astle, Cook, Brundle, Collett, Hobden.
Subs: Scott, Poulton, Lambrou-Graham, Elliott, Daniels.

AFC Varndeanians: Beasley, Blackmore, Mollanji ©, J. Smith, Bentley, Wilton, Tuck, Carey, M. Smith, Langan, Ambler.
Subs: Barker, Cox, Starks, Broad, Lane.

Match report by Darren Ford