Pevensey & Westham became the first ever winners of the Sussex Girls Challenge Cup (Under-13s) as late goals from Ella Quigley and Jess Fry settled a thrilling final at Culver Road.
With the competition curtailed due to the pandemic in 2020 and again in 2021, the cup was waiting for its inaugural Under-13s champions to be crowned and the East Sussex side eventually prevailed - in the end deservedly so.
A slow burning contest burst into life in the second half but extra-time still seemed an inevitability until Quigley’s stunning 20-yarder broke the proverbial deadlock with ten minute to go. Fry put the seal on her side’s strong second half showing with a goal direct from a corner with the last action of the encounter.
Beaming from ear to ear after the game, manager Steven Hadfield and his assistant Glenn Blakeman - both of whom proudly watched as their daughters lifted the trophy - praised the quality and skill level of their young team.
Blakeman said: “We knew it was going to be a difficult but high-quality game, we knew of Chichester’s quality and tried to prepare for that. We got a three-point win against them a few weeks ago and that helped us - but even though we know them and they us, the girls were nervous coming here as forms counts for nothing and there’s so many other factors at play like conditions, emotions and preparation.
“The wind was a factor but at half-time we told the girls to stick at it, move the ball quicker and to unsettle their centre-backs.
“I felt we got better as the game went on - we got our wingers into play more, broke the lines well and played higher up the pitch. We had to dig in and battle at times, but we showed a strong level of concentration, had to stay patient and deserved to win.
“The whole team were fantastic but Jess (Fry) was excellent in the middle of the park, she deserved her goal and I’m so pleased and proud of the girls. Any win is special but to be the first team to get this cup makes it that little bit more so.”
Chichester & Selsey had plundered twelve goals from their three ties en route to the final and went close early on when Evie Harper - Coleman, daughter of manager Trevor, steered wide having been set up by strike partner Miya Edwards. Chichester’s twin strike threat carried a modicum of threat all game in a running duel with their opposition’s strong and organised backline.
Destiny Seaver - Phillips shot wide on the counter for Pevensey, before Chi keeper Rhia Hughes was called into action for the first time to keep out Fry.
If the first half proved to be 35 minutes with chances at a premium, the nine versus nine final livened up considerably with a flurry of chances at both ends.