The final of the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup is due to take place on Thursday 9 March 2023 between Crawley Wasps and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Crawley Wasps vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup Final
Date: Thursday 9 March 2023
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, BN15 9AX
The holders of the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup Final, Brighton & Hove Albion, return to Culver Road on Thursday night, and for manager Sinead Hogan-Belcher, her pride in the team for making the final is clear, especially when reflecting on the challenging journey her team had to get there.
“Anything can happen in a cup, and that certainly was nearly the case in our first-round game,” remembers Hogan-Belcher, “Hastings United really made us sweat and work for that 1-0 win, so massive credit them and they’re definitely a team to keep an eye on in the county.”
Yet Hogan-Belcher’s side clearly grew in confidence as the rounds progressed, capping off an impressive campaign with an 11-2 victory over Montpelier Villa.
“It was great to meet the staff, and everyone involved with Montpelier when we played them,” said Hogan-Belcher, “we’ve invited them down to our training ground, so it’ll be great to get them in, seeing as they’re just starting their journey.
“One of the great things about this competition is it gives you the chance to meet other teams in the county and help each other progress.”
Outside of the cup, it’s been a challenging season for the squad, coming up against the academy sides from the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
But for Hogan-Belcher, she’s keen to stress the different purposes the two formats have in the development of the team“In the league we’re always thinking about how we can best develop each player individually, which might involve playing them out of position and making them feel challenged,” she said.
“This has been a tough season though, but we’ve also got one of the youngest squads we’ve ever had, with the majority of our team coming up from the under-16s.
“So the way we see it, the greater the challenge, the greater the potential of development, so we’re really proud of the team this year for being able to compete at such a high level.”
Yet playing at that high level, in both league and cup games, comes with pressure, so how have Hogan-Belcher’s young team been able to cope with it?
“They’re a great team, and this season we’ve spent a lot of time ensuring they have a really strong bond, so in terms of dealing with nerves, they’re always there to help each other,” she said.
“It also helps that Brighton is a club where it’s all one club, and we all stand together.
“So, we always see first team players and staff coming to watch our games and support the girls, which I know means a lot to them.
“Even at the Montpelier game we had a few in watching the team and cheering them on, so to have that connection is really special.”
Indeed, the players are going to need that same level of support come Thursday night, when they take on familiar opponents Crawley Wasps, who they beat 3-1 to lift the trophy last season.
“Just like last year, I’m not expecting anything less than an absolute fight from Crawley,” said Hogan-Belcher, “they have a few players in their senior side who’ve come from our environment, so I’m excited to see them again and see how they’ve progressed in their careers.”
A familiar opponent they may be, but not for all of the Brighton side, with only four of the current team having experienced last season’s cup final.
“The fact that it’s going to be a brand-new experience for most of the squad is really exciting,” said Hogan-Belcher, “it gives them the opportunity to try and hold onto something the team before them won.
“We’ve even had the cup in the middle of our changing room, so they’ve seen it every day and will certainly want to hold onto it!”
With that in mind, just what message will Hogan-Belcher be imparting onto her squad before kick-off?
“I’ll remind them that, no matter the result, as long as they go out there, compete and represent the club in the best way and play an attractive brand of football, the win is just a bonus,” she said.
And finally, to the fans who’ll be coming down to Culver Road to cheer the team on?
“Don’t be shy!” said Hogan-Belcher, “Get behind the girls, enjoy the game and really make some noise… the louder things are the better the environment for us. So come along and really make them feel backed and supported!”
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 Women’s Challenge Cup please contact:
T: 01903 753547