Sussex leave it late to see off Hertfordshire
The Sussex County FA Under-18s Representative Squad came from behind to win 2-1 against Hertfordshire FA, in the first fixture of the South East Counties Youth Championship Group B season, on a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon at Culver Road.
Both sides took a while to get going, but Hertfordshire did eventually take the lead just before the break through Callum Stead. Sussex drew level from the penalty spot courtesy of James Waters, before Lewis Broughton snatched all three points for the home side minutes from the end.
The opening exchanges saw few opportunities with both sides adapting to the windy conditions which played a rather large factor on the game.
Hertfordshire has the first meaningful opportunity of the match with ten minutes gone as an in-swinging corner was met by the head of Adam Perry, but his effort drifted just over the angle of post and crossbar.
With fifteen minutes to go till half-time the game sprung into life, Matt Adams saw his shot comfortably saved by Luke Glover in the Sussex goal, then Tariq Bakkali forced Glover into a fine diving save to keep the scores level.
Minutes later at the other end Alex Plummer stung the palms of Hertfordshire goalkeeper Bradley Heaps.
Glover came to Sussex’s rescue again soon after, he had to be quick off his line to smartly deal with a hopeful ball over the top that, wind assisted, very nearly turned into a great through ball for Stead. Then, after a lovely flick from Tola Showunmi had put the lively Bakkali in one-on-one the keeper spread himself brilliantly to thwart the striker.
The visitors got the goal their chances deserved just a minute later when Jack Walker played a ball over the top to Stead who kept his composure to round Glover and tap into the empty net.
One goal nearly became two for Hertfordshire just before half-time as good work down the right side from Walker lead to his cross come shot nearly catching out Glover at his near post.
Hertfordshire had further opportunities to extend their lead early in the second-half. Bakkali and Stead linked up with the latter doing well to wriggle free of his marker only to see his shot across goal well saved by Glover.
Bakkali seemed to be at the heart of everything going forward for Hertfordshire, as he played a defence splitting pass to put Milo Keane through one-on-one with Glover, but the goalkeeper somehow managed to block the goal-bound effort from near point-blank range.
Those missed chances proved to be costly for Hertfordshire as things finally started to click in the last third for the hosts.
Ricky Aguiar was the first to threaten as the tables turned with twenty minutes to go; he beat several Hertfordshire defenders on a surging run forwards before pulling the trigger, only to see his shot drift agonisingly wide of the post.
Sussex were given the perfect opportunity to draw level moments later, as Hertfordshire’s Samuel Ready fouled Ryan Simmons in his attempts to clear the ball.
Waters stepped up, placed the ball on the spot, and slotted neatly into the corner sending Heaps the wrong way.
Harrison Mott went close for Sussex ten minutes later, as he hit a dipping volley from twenty yards out just wide with Heaps worryingly scrambling across his goal.
With only three minutes remaining the home side took the lead. Aguiar fed Mott on the edge of the area, and he delightfully flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Lewis Broughton to smash past the helpless Heaps.
Hertfordshire nearly equalised straight from the restart as Showunmi broke away down the left, beat his man and fired a cross hard and low to the back post which just eluded the boot of Keane sliding in.
Sussex held on for the remaining moments to claim all three points, leaving Hertfordshire to ponder what might have been had they taken their chances.
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
Goals: 2-1; Shots: 17-15; Shots-on-target: 7-11; Corners: 5-3; Fouls: 8-11; Offside: 3-6; Yellow cards: 1-1; Red cards: 0-0.
Sussex: Glover, Moore, Broughton, McCarthy, Malila, Pickering, Jennah, Plummer, Waters, Daly, Sisimayi.
Subs: Mott, Aguiar, Brodie, Williamson, Simmons.
Hertfordshire: Heaps, Wicker, Huckle, Ready, Adams, McClelland, Stead, Walker, Showunmi, Perry, Burton.
Subs: Bakkali, Smith, Keane, Hutchinson, Jeffery.
Match report by Darren Ford