Sussex came out high spirited in the second-half with a slight change in tactics by manager Nici Rice, putting the home side on the front foot; and the changes created a wonderful opportunity for Sussex to pull a goal back.
A free-kick from 30 yards out was well struck by Kellie Larkin and it dipped and bounced just in front of the Royal Navy keeper Keris Abbott. She could only parry the ball into the path of Sussex striker Ariana Fleischman, who got minimal contact on the ball, however it was destined for the net until Nat Brierley miraculously cleared the ball off the line and kept the visitors clean sheet intact.
The Royal Navy’s 3-0 scoreline didn’t look quite as secure as it once had, with Sussex playing like a different team in the second-half. Despite this, the final ball wasn’t coming off for the home side and a bit of luck or individual talent was needed to get themselves back in the game.
That finally came with 15 minutes remaining. Nicole Webley put a perfectly weighted pass through the Navy defence, finding the lively Sara Tubby and she bore down on goal waiting for the right moment to slot past the keeper which she did with a calm, cool and collected finish.
The intense pressure from Sussex didn’t stop there as they pulled another goal back eight minutes from time. Fleischman’s effort on goal was blocked but the ball fell kindly to the feet of striker partner Tubby just inside the box, and she blasted the ball into the bottom corner.
Sussex got the all-important equaliser with just 3 minutes remaining. Relentless pressure on the backline of the Navy proved too much as a loose ball ricocheted nicely into the path of Fleischman, and she spotted Abbott off her line and struck a looping effort over the goalkeeper to complete a late comeback.
Tubby had a fantastic chance to steal all three points and complete her hat-trick, but, after a poor goal kick from Abbott she was unable to capitalise as she snatched at the opportunity and dragged the shot narrowly wide.
After the thrilling match Sussex manager Nici Rice said: “I was quite optimistic, we were playing better football than the opposition and they capitalised on our errors early on.
“At half-time I said don’t over play, keep it simply but get the ball forward more, let’s get them under pressure and go out and win the second-half, we did exactly that, and nearly snatched the result right at the end.”
With some new faces in the squad Rice commented: “Sara Tubby came in and did very well, in the second-half she came on and showed what she can do.”
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
Stats: (Sussex-Royal Navy)
Goals: 3-3; Shots: 10-9; Shots-on-target: 5-6; Corners: 1-6; Fouls: 4-2; Offside: 0-4; Yellow: 0-0; Red: 0-0.
Sussex: Wilson, Kemp, Ward , Elphick, Howell, Webley, Tucker, Larkin, Pilgrim, Tubby, Hyland ©.
Subs: Fleichman, Robinson.
Royal Navy: Abbott, Perrin, Field, Shorter, McGlashan, Brierley, Bavister ©, Timoney, Green, Kapein, Boylan.
Subs: Flatters, Goodrum, O’Leary, Carragher.
Match report by Jordan O’Sullivan