Borough prevail in thrilling encounter

Eastbourne Borough 6-2 Cuckfield Cosmos

Poppy Harrod skippered Eastbourne Borough to victory with a treble in the first ever Sussex Girls Challenge Cup Final (Under-15s).

In a second half, eight goal tale of not one, but two hat-tricks, Harrod struck thrice and Willow Brown also netted her own personal hat-trick in an extraordinary second half as the West Sussex side became the cup’s inaugural winners.

There had been little hint of the goal glut to come after a goalless and evenly fought first half, but the final exploded into life inside 40 madcap second half minutes in which the healthy Culver Road crowd certainly got their money’s worth.

In truth, the final 6-2 scoreline flattered Borough as Sue Best’s Cuckfield Cosmos side more than played their part but Eastbourne’s superior quality and strength in depth ultimately proved the difference.

Jennifer Eustace in the Cosmos goal was called into action twice inside the first ten minutes to keep out Abigail Tucker at the near post, and then did well to deny Ela Babaoglu when well-placed.

The pace and trickery of Cuckfield’s diminutive left winger Yazmin Williams caused problems for Borough’s backline and she came closest for the Mid Sussex team. Williams fired narrowly wide on the counter attack and then had another effort saved by Sophia Moule in the Eastbourne goal soon afterwards.

In an increasingly end-to-end contest, Tucker was again thwarted by Eustace at the other end before Annabel Worcester tried her luck having linked up with Megan Griffiths.

Quite what occurred behind the dressing room walls at the interval we shall never know but if the opening had been akin to two boxers feeling each other out, the second was the equivalent of a full blown heavyweight contest.

It took Borough only three minutes after the restart to go ahead as Cicely Holmes released Brown one-on-one and she finished well beyond the advancing Eustace to give her side the lead.

Ten minutes further on and it was deja vu: a ball in behind and Brown burst clear to sweep home a superb finish from close range to extend Borough’s suddenly commanding advantage.

Eustace proved an impressive figure between the posts for Cuckfield as she held on to Tucker’s fizzing strike from distance before she came to Cosmos rescue again, this time to keep out Harrod’s inswinging, wind assisted free-kick.

But there was nothing the keeper could do in the 66th minute as Boro - and their skipper - put the result beyond any lingering doubt. Harrod collected the ball in space wide on the right and curled home a superb effort beyond the reach of the helpless Eustace for the third goal in 23 minutes.

In a compelling and increasingly crazy contest, there was barely time to draw breath as Ellie Ryder pulled a goal back for Cuckfield to the delight of their vociferous faithful, but just when it seemed as though there might be a grandstand finish, up stepped Harrod with the best goal of the day.

There seemed little on when she looked up 35 yards out, but the ball - ably assisted by the swirling Culver Road winds - kept on going and dropped over Eustace into the net for a goal of the season contender.

In what must surely be a first, the day’s two county finals both saw goals direct from corner-kicks when Harrod completed her hat-trick on 73 minutes, set up again by the freak impact of Mother Nature. 

The tie had gone mad as the game did its best to keep the shivering Culver Road crowd warm but still the goalfest was not over. Next it was Brown’s turn to notch her hat-trick with a stunning strike from distance to make it 6-1, but to their credit Cosmos never gave up and the mid Sussex side grabbed a consolation in the final minute through Annabel Le Neve - Foster’s delightful lobbed finish.

And so it was Borough secured not only the trophy but a unique piece of history to boot as Daniel Fogg’s side became the competition’s first ever champions on a freezing night at Sussex HQ.

The Eastbourne manager, grinning from ear to ear, praised his side’s quality and intensity in the aftermath of victory. He said: “There were some great goals in there, weren’t there, it’s unusual to have two players get hat-tricks in the same game but Poppy and Willow are two very good players, we try and look to those two girls as our focal point and play to their strengths.

“We used the wind to our advantage, kept the intensity up and our qualities came through in the end. The girls have been excited but focused, we told them to play the game and not the occasion.

"I’m very pleased and delighted to win this trophy - we won it at under-12 level but some of the players have never done this before so together they’ve created a legacy.”

Eastbourne Borough Video Still
Eastbourne Borough vs. Cuckfield Cosmos (Under-15s) - 06-02-22
Full highlights of the Sussex Girls Challenge Cup Final (Under-15s) powered by Your Instant Replay.

(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: (Eastbourne Borough-Cuckfield Cosmos): Goals (6-2); Shots (15-8), Shots on Target (12-4); Fouls (2-2); Corners (5-5); Offsides (1-1); Yellow (0-0); Red (0-0)

Eastbourne Borough: Moule; A.Chatfield, Tucker, Harrod, Bowerman, Jiang, Babaoglu, Griffiths, Worcester, Starkey, Holmes.
Subs: Coleman, Rose, Brown, Price, Connor.

Cuckfield Cosmos: Eustace; Phillips, Williams, Johnson, Barker, McDonagh, E.Ryder, Le Neve - Foster, S.Ryder, E.Chatfield, Lu.
Subs: Roberts, Warren. 

Match report by Jamie Spoor

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