Chichester City win the Sussex Women's Challenge Cup

Chichester crowned Women’s Cup champions

Brighton & Hove Albion 0 - 1 Chichester City

A stunning early Molly Clark goal gave Chichester City their second Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup win as they held on for victory against seventeen time winners Brighton & Hove Albion at Culver Road on Thursday evening.

Chichester - having won the competition back in 2014 - are one of only five clubs to have ever done so, and repeated that triumph despite starting as the underdogs against Women Super League side Brighton.

In front of a bumper crowd of almost 300, Albion began the final with six players to have featured in the first team this season, but Aaron Smith’s third tier Chichester came flying out of the traps.

In a start that no one could have foreseen, they led after less than a minute. It was a goal worthy of winning any game as Clark let fly with a dipping 40-yard strike that left Albion keeper Laura Hartley scrambling and grasping at thin air.

Chi meant business and went close again moments later when Rebecca Baron picked out the impressive Jess Lewry and she fired narrowly over the bar on the angle.

The National League side continued to come on strong and almost extended their advantage twice in quick succession if not for the intervention of Hartley. She saved well from a Clark header and then parried away a second header - this time from Tash Stephens - on the rebound.

It was a mixed night for the Brighton keeper, and having kept her side in the opening exchanges, she then almost proved the architect of their own downfall. A Stephens shot should have proved a routine catch for Hartley, but instead she could only fumble the ball back towards goal. Her blushes were spared when referee Russell Brooks waved away vehement protestations that it had crossed the line.

Brighton were strangely subdued with Chichester monopolising possession and territory. The underdogs continued to create chance after chance, and rattled the crossbar through Tubby before Hartley denied Lauren Clark at the second attempt with her foot.

In the 56th minute, it was Brighton’s turn to be denied by the upright. Maya Le Tissier sent the stanchion shaking with a wicked free-kick from 35-yards out.

Stephens flashed a shot wide and substitute Josie Stannard headed over at the other end. Nadine Bazan burst clear with a chance to put the result beyond doubt, but replacement Albion keeper Lucy Williamson got down well to save.

She saved again as Lewry tried her luck from distance but that proved to be the final action, as despite five additional minutes, Chi held out.

Winning manager Smith said: “This is the pinnacle of Sussex football, this club had enjoyed a meteoric rise and winning this again is testimony to that.

“Brighton are a top quality side with an incredible record in this competition, one that speaks for itself. A lot of their team are probably half the age of my players, but we used that to our advantage with tactical nous and game management.

“We had a game plan and it worked, we were keen to give everyone a game so the changes possibly affected our shape in the last 15 minutes, but we were the better side and it’s been a brilliant season for both the men’s team and our side at Chichester!”

Chichester City lift the Sussex Women's Challenge Cup
HIGHLIGHTS - Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Chichester City
Watch Your Instant Replay's highlights of the Sussex Women's Challenge Cup Final between Brighton & Hove Albion and Chichester City.

(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 Your Instant Replay)

Stats: (Brighton & Hove Albion-Chichester City)
Goals: 0-1; Shots: 7-14; Shots-on-target: 0-4; Corners: 3-7; Fouls: 6-8; Offside: 0-1; Yellow cards: 1-1; Red cards: 0-0. 

Brighton & Hove Albion: Hartley, Roe, Mason, Hack, Isted, Mackey, Le Tissier, Pharaoh, Derhun, Fordjour, Brayer.
Subs: Williamson, Holly Clarke, J Stannard, Eyre, L Stannard.

Chichester City: Dolbear, Cheshire, Bazan, Waine, Taylor, Baron, M Clark, L Clark, Lewry, Stephens, Tubby. 
Subs: Ogle, Caple-Watson, Ingram, Simmonds, White.

Match report by Jamie Spoor

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