Wanderers Triumph in Sunday Cup
Woodingdean Wanderers were crowned Sussex Sunday Challenge Cup final champions in a tight battle at Culver Road, with a 2-0 win over AFC Chichester.
After a closely-fought first-half, second-half goals from captain Max Jeffery and Jamie Craddock secured the win for the Foxes as they secured their first piece of silverware since they were formed back in 2019. Meanwhile, for Chichester, it is another year without winning the trophy that has eluded them since they appointed Charley Hammond during the 2011/12 season,
With both teams occupying the top two places in their respective leagues, this promised to be an exciting affair. In a game with plenty of tough tackles put out, this was an entertaining game for the 220 fans that watched on.
Woodingdean had the better chances early on, Jeffrey failing to test Chichester goalkeeper Liam O’Neill after a cross from Craddock, with Jake Legrange and Marley Ambler soon involved in the action. Ambler would woo the crowd later on in the half with an audacious backheel flick.
Jefferey tested the Chichester defence several times throughout the first half with his huge throw-ins. However, the best chance in the opening ten minutes fell to Chichester, with Andy Hounsome failing to get on the end of a dangerous cross.
In a first-half full of fouls a plenty, Legrange drew plenty, causing one from Chichester’s Louca Keenoy. Jamie Craddock’s free kick missed everyone and tested O’Neill, but Woodingdean could not convert.
Both teams continued to push in the opening 45 minutes, with both Jordan Rudwick and Dan Bassil having chances for Woodingdean and Chichester respectively.
There was a spell in the first-half where both teams were starved of chances before both Tariq Richards and Jordan Rudwick had chances in dangerous areas for Woodingdean. In the one downside to the first half, Jay Bayley clashed with O’Neil and was forced off the field. He was replaced by Paul Grantham.
The best opportunity towards the end of the first half came to Woodingdean, with Rudwick going agonisingly close and just whiskers away from finding the net. The target man would go on to be sin binned by referee Perry Hart for dissent. In a first half that lacked an opening goal, Woodingdean certainly had the better of the chances.
The second-half started with the Foxes the most dangerous side and it wouldn’t take them long to finally find the net, as Jeffrey bundled home the first goal of the evening from a corner.
It wouldn’t take them long to be on the once again on the attack, as Legrange burst down the pitch, finding the returning Rudwick who was denied by some excellent Grantham defending. They would threaten from another dangerous corner and the chance fell to Jeffrey once again, but this time their captain could not convert.
Chichester would look to back into the game as they attempted to make Woodingdean rue those missed chances, A corner from Dan Swain was met by the head of John Phillips whose effort hit the bar in the trailing side’s best opportunity of the half.
After Keenoy drew a foul, Chi once again threatened, with Tom Bayley’s powerful low driven free kick brushing just wide of the Woodingdean net.
Despite the pressure put on them, Woodingdean scored out of the blue to double their lead in the 77th minute. Just minutes after a set-piece was almost scored at one end, Jamie Craddock fired a free-kick, and his low effort was good enough to beat O’Neill. The trophy seemed all but theirs and they almost made it three, but substitute Jordan Burstow missed a great opportunity to seal it.
The final whistle went, which confirmed Woodingdean’s victory and first ever piece of silverware for the trophy cabinet. Player manager Thai Beebee spoke of his delight at the win and talked about the difficulties of being a player manager.
“The boys are buzzing. It’s a massive trophy to win, it’s big for the club, puts us on the map really. It’s the biggest one in Sussex. We haven’t played each other so the first half was a bit of a chess match trying to suss each other out.
“They changed their shape in the first half and we said at half time that the first goal is massive. Luckily enough we got it. We score from a lot of set pieces so it’s nice to get one from a corner. It was a tight game, but we had the big chances.
“We’ve done it three years now. The first year I tried doing it on my own and I just couldn’t do it. Kalvin the assistant has been doing it (the side-line coaching) the last couple years. It’s difficult for me because when I am playing, I’m focusing on the game, and you can’t see what’s going on. He’s a big help.”
Of course, when there is a winning manager, there is also a losing manager. Chichester manager Hammond spoke of the disappointment whilst remaining positive. He said: “Yeah the game didn’t go our way. I don’t think we ever really got going properly like we know we can, but we can’t fault the effort there. I’ve just said to the boys, heads held high for that.
“We played against a good Woodingdean side, and I thought it was a really good contest and they scored their goals at the right time. It was tough to watch but really proud of them.
“I thought we struggled early on and really came into the game. We probably didn’t want the first half to end when it did. The result is what matters, and everyone is really gutted and dejected but we have another massive game in four days’ time. There’s a possibility, on Sunday, if we can take at least a point, that we win the league."
(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: (Woodingdean Wanderers-AFC Chichester): Goals (2-0), Shots (21-9), Shots on target (10-3), Fouls (11-7), Offsides (0-2), Yellow (0-1), Red (0-0).
Woodingdean Wanderers: Dunk, Jeffrey, Cox, Jutton, Legrange, T. Beebee, G. Rudwick, Richards, Craddock, Ambler, J. Rudwick,
Subs: J. Boland, E. Bradley, J. Burstow, L. Beebee, B. Sullivan
AFC Chichester: O’Neill, Kelly, Keenoy, Gaffney, J. Bayley, Pointing, Phillips, A. Hounsome, T. Bayley, Bassil, Swain.
Subs: P. Grantham, J. Pengelly, H. Agostinelli, D. Richardson, T. Jefkins.
Match Report by Andy Davies