The final of the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup is due to take place on Wednesday 13 March 2019 between Newhaven and Eastbourne Town.
Newhaven vs. Eastbourne Town
Date: Wednesday 13 March 2019
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX
Last year saw the introduction of this cup, however due to the restructure of the under-21s league to under-23s, the trophy has been renamed to be in line with those changes.
These two finalists are very familiar with each other and have met twice this season in the Southern Combination Football League (under-23s East).
The first fixture took place at the beginning of the campaign in September and Newhaven saw off Eastbourne 5-0 at The Trafalgar Ground. Almost three months later the reverse fixture took place at Eastbourne Town’s ground and substitute Harry Colbran came on and opened the scoring enabling the home side to take all three points.
Newhaven Under-23s boss, Kieran Ridley began coaching from quite a young age and has been at the club on and off for approximately eight seasons, with four seasons of those being with the under-23s.
Ridley, who also has the role as first team assistant and under-18s joint-manager expressed what reaching the county cup final means: “It’s really special for us, we were looking at the County Cup as the most prestigious cup, the league cup is great and we are in the semi-final of that but the county cup has got that little bit extra to it.”
The Dockers are currently sitting second in the league with just one point separating them from their opponents Eastbourne Town who sit at the top; however the title appears to be out of their hands due to third place AFC Uckfield having an abundance of games in hand.
Despite his side having an impressive campaign to date, Ridley insists that his side are under dogs going into Wednesday evening: “I would say they are slight favourites because of the way they played against us at their place but obviously it’s almost a stand-alone game, you almost forget form and everything else in a cup final.
“I am expecting it to be tight, I think the team we beat 5-0 at home has completely changed, that’s not their squad anymore.
“The team that beat us 1-0 is probably one of the best teams I’ve seen this season, they dominated us for long periods of time."
Newhaven’s cup journey began in quite dramatic fashion after being gifted a spot to the quarter-final due to their second round opponents fielding an ineligible player and Ridley believes that their all-important 4-3 victory over Hastings in the quarter-final made his players realise they deserve to still have their name in the hat.
“We were 2-0 down after twenty minutes and then we ended up beating them and I said to the lads that that’s us gaining back the respect after having lost the first round.
“Hastings are in a higher league than us so it was a really good win for us,” he said.
They then drew Selsey in the semi-final and beat them 3-1 at home in which Ridley felt was a straight forward win for his team.
“Now the players are absolutely buzzing for Wednesday, they are really looking forward to it because it’s the most prestigious cup.”
Eastbourne Town Under-23s manager, Graeme Mintrim joined the club shortly after the start of this 2018/19 season and oversees the whole development pathway from Under-18s to first team.
He came into the role with a wealth of experience within county league football and has been involved with clubs such as Eastbourne Borough’s under-18s, Crowborough Athletic, where he assisted the first team manager and he also spent some time at AFC Uckfield where he worked under Steve Ives at the time.
The ex- Eastbourne Town, Hailsham and Hassocks player prides himself on developing young talent and believes in his squads capability: “I really enjoy working with the young players to try and develop them and help them progress.
“We have got a good group of young players here and I really enjoy that side of it.
“It’s a massive achievement for us as a team; they have come a long way in a short period of time since I’ve been there.
“The improvement has been huge and they are all willing to listen, to learn and take on board the information we give them.
“To be honest it’s their hard work and belief that has rewarded them with the cup final and probably the most prestigious cup that we are in this season.”
Mintrim is fully aware of the talent Newhaven have and knows that it will not be an easy encounter for his team under the lights at Culver Road: “It’s a massive competition at under-23s level, it’s being played on a great facility and it’s against a really useful side from our division.
“It will be a tough game but it I think it will be an enjoyable game because both teams try and play football the right way and I am looking forward to it.
“Newhaven are a very good under-23s side, I like the way they approach things, they have a lot of togetherness and really do fight for each other - It will be a really entertaining game especially for the neutral.”
On paper, Eastbourne’s route to the final looked like a stroll in the park after putting nine past Mile Oak, then beating Arundel 4-2 in the second round, 6-0 against Rottingdean and 6-2 against Peacehaven & Telscombe, but the under-23s boss stresses not all of the games came easy despite the score lines suggesting otherwise.
“The Mile Oak game was a comfortable victory, the Arundel game was a different performance, they were very physical and that is something we haven’t really encountered before and we had to rise to that and we did very well.
“The performance against Rottingdean Village was a strange one too because we had a player sent off after approximately ten minutes and in fairness to our team we really showed spirit and togetherness and we kept it simple and played to our strengths.
“In regard to the semi-final, we just started really quickly and didn’t let Peacehaven settle too early and we’ve got players who create chances and score goals and we took it,” he explained.
Mintrim is hoping that his side can get their name engraved onto the silverware as a reward for their strong season: “It’s nice to have an outing like this at the end of the season to give them something to remember back on and remember the season by, so I hope they can get what they deserve.”
Entry prices for the final are as follows:
£5.00 Adult (17+)
£3.00 Concession (65+ and students with valid student ID card)
FREE Child (16 and under)
For further details about the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup, please contact Competitions:
T: 01903 753547