Blake calls on Rocks to beat the odds
The semi-final of the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup is due to take place on Tuesday 18 April 2023 between Brighton & Hove Albion and Bognor Regis Town.
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Bognor Regis Town
Sussex Senior Challenge Cup Semi-Final
Date: Tuesday 18 April 2023
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, BN15 9AX
For former Burnley and Leeds United striker, Robbie Blake, it's been a frustrating first full season in charge of the Rocks, with several injuries affecting his young squad.
The team currently sit 14th in the Isthmian Premier League with the season nearing its end.
Bognor secured themselves a place in the semi-final at the end of February when they emphatically beat Bexhill 6-1 at home, putting them in touching distance of a place in the final and a chance of silverware.
However, Blake acknowledges that his team have been handed a hard draw against the current holders Brighton:
“I think they have got such a pool of players that they can call upon, a lot of players with a lot of quality. We won’t know until the day what type of Brighton team is going to come along, but what we do know is it is going to be packed full of quality.
“Yes, it’s going to be a young team, but it’s a Premier League outfit that are doing fantastically well in the league and they’ve got some fantastic young players.”
In their quarter-final, Brighton played a team predominantly made up of their Under-18s side as they beat Littlehampton Town 3-0.
With the uncertainty over what type of team Brighton will put out, Blake will be focusing on his team’s game plan in the build-up to the match:
“I think you have always got to be wary of their strengths, but I think we will mainly focus on what we are going to try and do in the game. Hopefully that will come off, but we know it’s going to be a really tough game.
“We respect them, they’re very skilful players and technically great. We just need to make sure we don’t give them enough time on the ball firstly, and then hopefully we can impose ourselves and our style on Brighton.”
The Bognor manager believes his squad are turning a corner following the challenges they have faced this year.
Striker Nathan Odokonyero has been impressive with 29 goals in the league this year, but Blake is keen to emphasise that it is a team effort.
He said: “We have got some really good young players coming through. Some who are only just coming through, the likes of Danny Howick, Tom Holland, Joe Briffa. Joe is just 16, like Tom, and they have just had a taste of it.
“They’ve got real time on their hands, and they know they have to improve but they have done ever so well.
“Then we have got the young lads from Portsmouth (on loan) who have come in, coupled with the experienced players like our captain Harvey White, Craig Robson, Calvin Davis, Sam De St Croix, Matt Patterson. We’ve got that experience; it’s just about helping them younger lads through.
He went onto add: “We have suffered a lot this season with injuries, which has not been great. At Football League level you can change it as you’ve almost got two people for every position, but we don’t find ourselves in that luxury.
“So, when you do lose key players at certain times, it does affect your league results. Hopefully we are just turning that corner now and we will get them back to finish the season strong.”
There are still some ongoing injuries in the squad ahead of the semi-final, midfielder Isaac Olaniyan is ruled out with a dislocated shoulder, while fellow midfielder Robson is a doubt.
Blake is hoping the cup will give the supporters some reward for their following this season:
“They have been so patient this year and they supported the team. The supporters know we have got a young team, we are trying to build for the future and get it right, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
“We just want them to come down, enjoy it and get behind the lads. We know it’s going to be a tough game, but hopefully we will all have a day out to the Sussex Senior Cup final.”
Entry prices are as follows (Cash and Card accepted):
£12.00 Adult (17+)
£8.00 Concession (66+ and students with valid student ID card)
£3.00 Child (16 and under)
£1.00 Official Match Day Programme
For further details about the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup please contact:
T: 01903 753547
Words by Joe Williams