Sussex strike twice in their season opener against Kent
Sussex Under-16s manager Gary Mansell praised his side’s maturity and discipline as previously unbeaten league leaders Kent went back across the border having been second best at Culver Road.
Sussex showed class and then character to race into a 2-0 lead - through a Demas Ramsis double in the first half - and then resisting a second half fightback from a strong Kent team.
Kent had won their first two matches in this season’s newly-expanded South East Counties Youth Championships, against Middlesex 1-0 and Essex 3-0 to open up a 100% record and early ownership of the top of the table place. By contrast, this was Sussex’s first match in the competition.
It took the hosts only eight minutes to go ahead as Mitch Hewens burst clear down the right and found the onrushing Ramsis. The striker still had a lot to do but he did it brilliantly as he spun his marker and drilled beyond Kent keeper Kyle McLeish ten yards out.
Adam Jones went close for Kent from a corner on twenty-three minutes but, soon afterwards, Sussex proved that lightning does indeed strike twice as Ramsis led the charge once more.
Moments after he had a shot cleared off the Iine by Patrick Johnson, Ramsis headed in superbly from a Cuthbert free-kick to put Sussex 2-0 up and establish clear daylight between the two sides.
Hewins rattled the bar as Mansell’s men threatened to run riot, and Cuthbert was narrowly off target from a set piece with Sussex in the ascendancy going into the interval.
Substitute Caleb Edorh dragged a shot wide for Kent when well placed, Cuthbert had a strike deflected behind and both keepers were then called into action. First, McLeish saved superbly to keep out the hat-trick hunting Ramsis, before opposite number Oskar Lockyer blocked well from Bobby Dunn.
That proved to be the final action of an attritional game, as Sussex prevailed to ensure their new look squad and new boss Mansell got off to the best possible start.
A proud Mansell - taking charge of his first game as Under 16s boss was full of praise for his side, and said:
“That was a very mature, disciplined and streetwise performance, I am very pleased and proud of all the boys and every one of them was brilliant.
“For a new Sussex side to put in a performance like that after only a few weeks of putting the squad together, against a very, very good side, was absolutely superb.
“The boys played exactly how we wanted in a very tough game. At this level and this age group it’s unusual to have such a physical scrap but the boys did so well and Demas up front was a constant threat with his pace and trickery.
“Harry Cuthbert at the back also stood out for me, he played ever so well. We’ve said to the boys that they’ve all got the Sussex shirt at the moment but we want them all to push to keep it now.”
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
Stats: (Sussex - Kent): Goals: 2-0; Shots: 9-3; Shots-on-target: 5-1; Corners: 6-2; Fouls: 6-9; Offsides: 3-2; Yellow cards: 1-1; Red cards: 0-0.
Sussex: Lockyer, Chapman, Wood, Blencowe (c), Merchant, Cuthbert, Wright, Munt, Ramsis, Popham, Hewens.
Subs: Little, Freeman, Chalmers, Ferreira, McSweeney
Kent: McLeish, Jackson, Edwards, Watson, Sargent, Jones, Roberts, Turner (c), Sithole, Dunn, Landolo.
Subs: Gurung, Edorh, Adekundle, McDonnell.
Match report by Jamie Spoor.