Wanderers walk all over Horsham to win Under-23s Cup
Langney Wanderers clinched the Sussex Under-23 Challenge Cup against the odds with an impressive victory against Horsham in an entertaining final at Culver Road on Tuesday evening.
Goals from Macaulay Gray and Mohammed Mekawir either side of Peter Cooper’s brace secured the trophy for the Wanderers, who ousted holders Newhaven in their semi-final, at the expense of Horsham who will be frustrated to lose having entered the match as favourites.
The game started with Langney full of energy and aiming to take the occasion by the scruff of the neck. Despite their ‘underdog’ tag they showed plenty of intensity from the first whistle and enjoyed more of the ball than Horsham in the opening minutes.
The Hornets nearly shipped an own goal with eleven minutes played when Gray’s free-kick bypassed everybody in the area and was rebounded into danger, but Lewis Blaney reacted quickly between the sticks to keep the scores level.
The match continued in a similar vein, with Horsham on the back foot and struggling to deal with the intensity of Wanderers at times - with the latter seeing their pressure rewarded in the 19th minute.
Gray opened the scoring with a ferocious strike into the top corner from around 25 yards out, leaving Blaney powerless to keep the ball out despite managing to get a hand to it.
Horsham’s evening got even worse four minutes later when Wanderers were awarded the chance to double their advantage from the penalty spot, following a handball in the box.
Cooper stepped up and dispatched coolly, squeezing his effort past the outstretched Blaney to give the Southern Combination Football League East side some breathing space and put one hand on the trophy.
He got his second and Langney’s third of the evening in the 43rd minute, capitalising on a defensive mistake to run through and beat the goalkeeper one-on-one.
Wanderers were full value for their half-time lead, having produced a far better performance than Horsham who, due to a couple of unforced errors, were staring down the barrel of a heart-breaking cup final defeat.
After the interval the Hornets were beginning to match the physicality of their opponents but still struggling to break through and trouble Langney goalkeeper Connor Saunders.
Their only attempt on target came courtesy of Matieus Mulugeta shortly after the hour mark with a speculative shot from distance, but he was denied by Saunders who answered with a strong pair of hands.
A driven headed effort from Harry Law with twelve minutes remaining also failed to find the net, with Horsham’s time to mount an incredible comeback rapidly running out.
Substitute Mohammed Mekawir then netted Langney’s fourth and final goal of the evening, bursting through with just two minutes to go to seal the result.
The winning manager, Bayley Colbran, singled out two-goal hero Cooper for special praise after the final whistle.
“He’s not just a credit to the under-23s, he’s a credit to the club, a superb player and he’s been around and done it which you can tell,” he said.
“He worked so hard all the way through and if they don’t give him man-of-the-match then I’ll be speechless!”
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
(Video highlights are available above and on YouTube - courtesy of Your Instant Replay)
Stats: (Horsham-Langney Wanderers)
Goals: 0-4; Shots: 3-10; Shots-on-target: 1-5; Corners: 2-5; Fouls: 7-10; Offside: 1-3; Yellow: 1-1; Red: 0-0.
Horsham: Blaney, Pierre, Gallagher, Parsons ©, Mann, Fawcett, Mulugeta, Law, Goddard, Karl, Gordon.
Subs: Brooker, Webster, Holmes, Britland, Jacobides.
Langney Wanderers: Saunders, Lee, Ducatel, Gray, Ridgeway, Griffiths, Welsh, Tate ©, Cooper, Botting, Fear.
Subs: Ubi, Colbran, Griffin, Mekawir, Cherryman.
Match report by Archie Griggs