Sussex players celebrate

Sussex frustrated following spirited Kent fightback

Sussex 2 - 5 Kent

Kent FA Under-18s produced a storming comeback to defeat Sussex in the South East Counties Youth Championship at Culver Road.

Early goals from Jasper Pattenden and Rob Deda inside the opening 10 minutes gave Jay Lovett’s side a dream start against the league leaders, but the visitors drew level before half-time courtesy of Ryan Kingsford and Jacob Gilbert.

Charlie Deininger, Harrison Pont and an own goal from Tyrese Mthunzi would see Kent come away with all three points in an enthralling, if at times ill-tempered affair.

Sussex came flying out of the blocks in the opening exchanges and were awarded a penalty inside eight minutes when Brad Santos was brought down by Cameron Williams. Pattenden made no mistake from the spot.

Only three minutes later, Sussex doubled their lead. Santos was involved again as he found Deda inside the area, whose first-time effort flashed past a stranded Wayne Everest. The away side barely had a sniff in the opening 20 minutes as Sussex continued to dominate.

However, Dane Tasker gifted Kent a route back into the game in the 28th minute, fouling Charlie Dale in the area after spilling a cross. Kingsford powered home the resulting penalty to reduce the deficit.

The goal would instil new life into the away side, and they would be rewarded for their efforts in the 37th minute. Max Blencowe lost out in his own half to Dale, who in turn slotted Gilbert through to level proceedings.

It took an excellent last-ditch tackle from Kent captain George Porter to stop Santos restoring Sussex’s lead on the stroke of half-time.

Both teams came out for the second-half with it all to play for, and the away side would take the lead in the 48th minute when Mthunzi turned Gilbert’s free-kick into his own net.

Sussex were rocked by Kent’s goal so soon after the restart, and only two minutes later the visitors had a fourth. Pont was brought down by his fellow no.8 Deda, and his free-kick was beautifully placed in the far corner out of Tasker’s reach.

Kent soon began to assume control of the game, and Sussex offered little in the final third despite seeing more of the ball. Dylan Gifford, at the heart of most of the Sussex attacks, had two free-kicks in quick succession but neither came to anything.

As the game entered the closing stages, it was all backs against the wall as far as Kent were concerned. Sussex desperately tried to find a route back into the game but the visitors held firm.

The away side’s resilience would be rewarded in the sixth and final minute of added time; Tasker allowed a tame effort to slip out of his hands and Deininger was there to prod home and increase Kent’s tally to five. The win sees them top the group and advance to the final.

After the game, Sussex manager Jay Lovett said: “The way we dominated the first 25 minutes of the game, I never felt at any point that they were going to break us down unless we created our own mistakes. We gave them a lifeline to get back into the game and second-half they managed it really well.

“They’re [Kent] a very strong-willed side, they put a higher press on and closed us down at every opportunity. It’s a learning curve and I’m taking nothing away from them, they had a good game plan and matched us up well in the second-half.” 

(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Kyle Hemsley Photography)

Stats: (Sussex-Kent)
Goals: 2-5; Shots: 12-9; Shots-on-target: 5-6; Corners: 4-1; Offsides: 5-2; Fouls: 12-21; Yellow cards: 2-2; Red cards: 0-0.

Sussex: Tasker, Blackmore ©, Beresford, Mthunzi, Blencowe, Headland, Santos, Deda, Pattenden, Gifford, Pittock.
Subs: Goldsmith, Rawlingson, Ferreire.

Kent: Everest, Jarvis, Muddiman, Porter ©, Williams, Sinnock, Dale, Pont, Kingsford, Gilbert, Taylor. 
Subs: Deininger, Landau, Appleby.

Match report by Ben Knapton