The final of the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup is due to take place on Thursday 27 January 2022 between Newhaven and Hastings United.
Newhaven vs. Hastings United
Sussex Under-23 Challenge Cup Final
Date: Thursday 27 January 2022
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX
2019 winners, Newhaven come up against Hastings United in what is sure to be a tasty affair with Newhaven top of the Southern Combination Football League (SCFL) U23 East Division and Hastings second in the Isthmian Development League.
Newhaven manager, Kieran Ridley, has spoken of his relief to play in this final: “With COVID, it feels like this is the first big event we've had to look forward to for a while.
“We put some real emphasis on this competition this season, so the players are really, really pleased. It's a competition we prioritise because it is that prestige. When we played in the final last time the whole build up to it and the way Sussex County FA present the game, it makes the whole occasion that bit more special.
“The reaction after the Semi-Final was great. They know it's going to be a tough game up against Hastings, but a good feeling that they've got here.
Furthermore, he speaks of the pressure in getting to the final: “Eastbourne Town gave us a really, really good game in the Semi-Final. It was what you would call a stereotypical January game, heavy pitch, physical battle but we stepped up and got through.
“Eastbourne Town are a good side, so we were pleased to win that, and it was first vs. second from our league at the time.
“The Final is a bit of a free hit really, we aren't the favourites, we know that. We'll go there and enjoy ourselves, if we win, great, if we don't we've made it which is the main thing.
Whilst he thinks Hastings are the favourites in this tie, Kieran believes it will suit his players being underdogs.
“For the boys, it'll be a case of enjoying the underdog mentality. In the league games you will have the mid-table sides put men behind the ball and understandably so.
“I have no issue with that whatsoever, that's how football works. But it'll be nice to go into a game on the Culver Road pitch against a team, who I've only watched once, that are a good footballing side.
“To be on a pitch where we can get the ball down and play and not have to skid through mud, will make it a nice position to be in for us!
“When you have that bit of pressure in league games where you're expected to win, teams raise their game and defend well. Whereas Hastings, I think will play, will attack us, and should make for a good final.”
Finally, Kieran tells us of his side’s winning mentality which he believes is something that should be encouraged.
“There should be a great emphasis on winning for their development because it's a great lesson. We've got 17/18-year-old's in the 23s and if you go through that experience of big games, cup finals, and how to win those games, that's better development than anything.
“A lot these lads will go on to senior football and when it comes to them playing in these sort of games, they'll be well prepped.
“We're top of our league at the moment and our priority at the start of the season isn't to win it, it's to get one, two, three players into the first-team but if you have the experience of winning a title, it's better than anything.”
Similarly, these are thoughts echoed by his Hastings counterpart, Andrew Brown, who believes the desire to win is crucial to a player’s development.
“I think it's something that gets frowned upon in youth football that winning mentality. But I think players having that mentality to win is a crucial part of their development.
“Yes, there are other aspects of their game which are slightly more important, but we certainly try and breed into them that winning is everything.
“It's down to us as coaches to develop other areas of their game and make sure they can tick all the boxes, in possession and out of possession. But understanding the importance of winning and knowing how to win games and what that looks like is key.”
In terms of getting to the final itself, Andrew believes it has been a long time coming.
“I'm really pleased for the lads. We felt as a group we didn't do ourselves justice in the last couple of years for this competition.
“We felt we turned in some not very good performances and got knocked out a bit too easily. The group we've had we certainly feel we should have been going further in this competition.
“There's a lot of frustration on our end in that sense where we think we should have done better. I don't think we'll have to do a lot to motivate them this time round, because they're so pleased that they've got there, but they know how hard they've got to work to lift the trophy.
“So, this year we made sure we were taking this competition seriously and highlighted it as one we wanted to win.”
Lastly, he gave his thoughts on his opponents: “We only know about Newhaven from a first-team perspective. I've seen footage of their game against Eastbourne Town, and they look a really decent outfit.
“I think they changed slightly, tactically, against Eastbourne Town, they lined up with a back four, whereas I think they usually line up with a back three.
“It puts a question mark in our minds as to how they'll line up and what formation they go for, but we expect a tough game with a decent tactical battle.”
Entry prices for the final are as follows:
£6.00 Adult (17+)
£4.00 Concession (65+ and students with valid student ID card)
FREE Child (16 and under)
£1.50 Official Match Day Programme
For further details about the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup please contact Competitions:
T: 01903 753547