The final of the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup is due to take place on Thursday 20 April 2023 between Horsham YMCA and East Grinstead Town.
Horsham YMCA vs. East Grinstead Town
Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup Final
Date: Thursday 20 April 2023
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX
For Horsham YMCA this season’s cup run has been a real standout for the club, but as Assistant Manager Graham Shergold was keen to point out, they didn’t have the smoothest start in their journey to the final.
“Our first game was in the second-round, when we hosted Shoreham, but that match took about seven weeks to get played!” said Shergold.
“The weather really played its part in that one, but we got there in the end. The wait to play definitely took its toll on the boys, and that was reflected by the fact that we ended up going to penalties.”
Of course, though, with a penalty shootout potentially awaiting them on Thursday night, it could be said that it was no bad thing for the team to get that experience out of the way early.
“For us, the Under-23s is very much a development squad, so we’ve got a lot of young lads playing, so it’s definitely a good thing for them to go through that.
“As a club, our ethos is that we’re one club, and if you’re good enough you’re old enough, so we’ve got a real mix of Under-18s and Under-16s playing for us.”
Away from the cup run, it’s been a season of mixed fortunes in the Southern Combination Football League, with the club currently sixth.
“Overall, it’s definitely been a mixed bag,” said Shergold, “I’m not going to be rude, but it could have been better, and we’d definitely liked to have won more games, as any team would, but on the whole, it’s not been too bad.
“It’s been great to see the way the first team has taken an interest in how the boys have been getting on, coming along to training and supporting them at games, which has been really great to see.”
In terms of players, we should be watching out for, there were a few names that came to Shergold’s mind.
“Leading the line, we have young Lewis Shivnarain, and then just behind him we have Luke Harrison, who we’ve got on a joint deal with Dorking Wanderers.
“When they both came in, they were a little bit raw, but they’ve worked hard and through that development they’re now knocking on the door of the first team, which is just great to see.
“Every time we see a player make that step-up it’s a great feeling, because at some clubs I’ve been at it’s very much a ‘first team only’ mentality, so not only would that door be closed, but they also wouldn’t even be coming along to watch.
“Whereas here, like I said, we’re one club so you always tend to get a few of the first team boys down supporting.”
Indeed, Shergold and his coaching staff will be expecting a similar level of support when they take on East Grinstead Town. With that in mind, what’s their message going to be to those players?
“Go out there and make everyone proud,” said Shergold, “we’ll have a real game on our hands, but these lads definitely have what it takes to make the club proud!”
Standing in their way is Andrew Wills’ East Grinstead Town, who find themselves in their first County Cup Final for just over 20 years.
Speaking of the excitement at the club ahead of the tie, Willis said: “It’s great for the club that the lads have been able to make the final.
“We’re hardly the biggest club, and the fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years, so we’re expecting a healthy turnout to come down and cheer them on.”
It’s been an impressive run to the final for Wills’ side, picking up wins against the likes of Peacehaven & Telscombe and Bexhill United on the way.
“Those two games were definitely tough challenges for us,” said Wills, “when we played Peacehaven they were yet to lose in the league that season, and they’re a very robust, very physical side, same as Bexhill.
“Both those games were a little bit nail biting for us, but we got the job done.
“Then with the semi-final against Hastings United, a side we’re very familiar with, them being in our league [The Isthmian Football League Development South], and they’d already beaten us a few times, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but fair play to the boys we had a game plan and they stuck to it.”
“As a club, we’ve had one eye on the County Cup this year, and we’re currently on a run of eight wins in the last ten, so the confidence is definitely with the boys at the moment.”
For Willis, the success of this team comes down to one word ‘partnerships’.
“We’ve got a great group of players, but what we’ve really got right is developing the partnerships in the side, be that the two up front, or the boys in the middle of the park.
“So that balance and that structure of the squad has been great to see, so fingers crossed that’s working well on Thursday.”
Speaking of the big night, Wills is keen to stress the importance of their supporters backing them all the way in this cup run.
“They’ve been fantastic, they really have,” he said, “It doesn’t matter where we’ll be playing in the county and on what day, they’ll be there cheering us on.
“So, for them, and the volunteers who give up their time week in week out, we’ll be giving it our all to get the win!”
Entry prices are as follows (Cash and Card accepted):
£7.00 Adult (17+)
£5.00 Concession (66+ and students with valid student ID card)
£1.00 Child (16 and under)
£1.50 Official Match Day Programme
For further details about the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Trophy please contact:
T: 01903 753547