Hove vs. BN Dons HERO

Hove make history in Challenge Trophy Final

Words by Girvane Bila
Hove 5-4 BN Dons Reserves

Last night saw Hove win the Sussex Sunday Challenge Trophy, after overcoming BN Dons Reserves with a stunning second-half fightback, to win 5-4 on an epic night at Culver Road.

Roared on relentlessly by their fans, Tuesday the 14th of March will be remembered as “The Miracle at Culver Road” for Hove fans as Laurence Chandler’s men produced an incredible display to overturn their 4-1 first-half deficit with an unanswered four-goal barrage.

BN Dons went into the final as underdogs but indeed proved that they don’t fear anyone in the words of manager Tony Woods pre-game. 

They started strongly as Jake Lindsey, a mercurial threat all game, forced an acrobatic save from Hove goalkeeper Archie Whatman. 

In the 21st minute, BN Dons got their much-deserved opener thanks to Lindsey getting away from his marker Sam Morgan and finding Charlie Brown for a tap-in. 

Ten minutes before half-time, BN Dons doubled their lead after Mason Harwood lost his man and struck an instinctive shot that beat Whatman. 

Hove found hope though in the 41st minute thanks to forward Oli Barton-Hague, who produced an audacious chip on the edge of the box that looped over the outstretched Charlie Barber.

But BN Dons soon restored their two-goal lead five minutes later courtesy of another instinctive finish.

This time, it was Jake Bobby-Linssen who reacted quickest from a throw-in and struck a clever volley that caught out the unaware Whatman. 

Things went from bad to worse before the half-time whistle for Hove, after the Dons were ruthless in front of goal once again, with Ben Edwards capitalising on Hove’s failure to clear the ball away and catching Whatman unawares with another intuitive finish.

BN Dons’ ruthlessness looked to continue, and five minutes into the second-half Lindsay was one-on-one with the keeper, but Whatman read it well and reacted at the right time to block the shot. 

A discouraging start for Hove, who at this point, showed no real indicator of being able to get back into the game. 

And then, the unthinkable happened. 

In the 55th minute, Shaun Barker latched onto Max Rummery’s perfect through pass, and lobbed the ball over Barber with a delicate chip. 

The unlikely revival became increasingly probable in the 72nd minute when Barker got his second, after once again making a brilliant run into the box and tapping in from close range after he was left unmarked from a low cross. 

BN Dons were rattled, and Tony Woods could only hope that Hove would not find the equaliser or worse, before the full-time whistle. 

But in the 83rd minute Barton-Hague struck again, this time with a remarkable free-kick from distance that sailed into the box and over everyone including Barber in the Dons goal.

That sent an already rowdy Culver Road into absolute euphoria.

For the remaining seven minutes plus added time, the two teams continued to chase the game knowing a level scoreline left their fate to a penalty shootout. 

But Hove had other ideas.

In the final minute of five added on, captain Matt Ahwal hit a free-kick which, after taking a deflection off the Dons wall, sailed into the back of the net past Barber, completing the most improbable of comebacks. 

The final whistle brought delirious celebrations on the pitch and in the stands, where the Hove supporters had played their part in an unforgettable match.

Speaking after the game, Hove Manager, Laurance Chandler, did his best to try and sum up the game:

“It’s just amazing!” he said, “the manner in which we won it, 1-4 down at half-time, but the game was never dead for us.

“In the first-half we didn’t play the kind of football we wanted to play, with long balls over the top, so at half-time I just said to boys to remember how we play our football, with confidence and nothing to lose.

“To win our first ever trophy like that, it’s honestly just absolutely incredible!”

But at what point in that remarkable 90 minutes did Chandler start to really believe himself that there might be a chance?

“Look you should never not believe you have a chance,” he said, “If you think you can’t come back, you won’t.

“So, when we got that first goal, we had something to build on, and something to believe in!”

Hove vs. BN Dons Reserves YouTube thumbnail
Hove vs. BN Dons Reserves - 14-03-23
Highlights of the Sussex Sunday Challenge Trophy Final powered by Your Instant Replay.

(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: (Hove FC-BN Dons Reserves): Goals (5-4); Shots (12-12); Shots on target (8-7); Corners (5-4); Offsides (2-2); Fouls (10-10); Yellow Cards (1-2); Red Cards (0-0)

Hove: Whatman, Marchant, Myles Ahwal, Carr-Hopkins, Dennis, Matt Ahwal, Barker, Barton-Hague, Morgan, Madgwick-Miller, Ritchie
Subs: Irving, Quick, Gregory, Melhursh, Rummery

BN Dons Reserves: Barber, Kean, Locke, Edwards, Cattell, Harwood, Chapman, Lindsey, Lopez, Brown, Bobby-Linssen
Sub: Burstow, Mcintosh, Miller, Seagrove, Wilson

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