Girls Under-16s HERO

Sussex Girls' Challenge Cup Final (Under-16s) Preview

Words by Joe Williams
Crawley Wasps vs. Lewes

The final of the Sussex Girls' Challenge Cup (Under-16s) is due to take place on Thursday 23 March 2023 between Crawley Wasps and Lewes.

Crawley Wasps vs. Lewes
Sussex Girls' Challenge Cup Final (Under-16s) 
Date: Thursday 23 March 2023
Kick-off: 7:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, BN15 9AX

The two teams know each other well as they both compete in the JPL Warriors Under-16s Greys League where Crawley are seven points behind Lewes, but with two games in hand.

This is the first season in charge for Lewes manager Tim Heal, having been the assistant during last season’s cup success.

Heal has been pleased with how the season has gone so far: “We have been progressing throughout the year and our key emphasis to the girls has always been on the performance and the progress they are making as an individual rather winning or losing games”.

Despite winning the trophy last year only three of the girls that played in that game are still in the team as the others have moved up to the Under-18s side. 

This has led to a level of excitement amongst the girls as they prepare for their first final.

Heal said: “They’re all really looking forward to it. They’re excited for the opportunity of the final, the occasion of it, and having the ability to say this is what we have achieved for the season. 

“Not just having the great performances we have had but the opportunity of a medal to show for the season.”

The two teams met earlier this season in what was a hard fought 1-1 draw in the league. Heal was impressed with Crawley and expects the game to be another tough challenge for his side.

He said: “I expect them to make it quite tough for us to break them down. From the game we played before they were well organised and their defence was very impressive against us. 

“They changed their tactics throughout the game as to whether they press or go into a block, and I expect them to do something quite similar.”

It has been a dominant cup run for Lewes culminating in their 12-0 semi-final win over Bognor Regis Youth Under-16 Girls. 

This was a highlight moment for Heal as his team put into practice what they had been working on in training with goals coming from good combination play and multiple passes. 

The clean sheet and the presence of girls on the scoresheet that have not scored in the league this season all added to the satisfaction.

Before the Final, Heal will be emphasising to his side the need for them to play as a team and to the level that they have shown this season.

Heal said: “I think it is going to be the same as what we have tried to reiterate to them all season. The big thing is about being together, if one of our performances is good it can help raise us all up, we can thrive off other players performances. 

“It’s not all about just me and how I do or an individual player and how they do, it’s about us as a collective. But it’s all about if we can perform well and perform to our maximum.”

Dave Cole only stepped in as Crawley Wasps Under-16s manager after Christmas. Charlton Athletic’s Lois Roche had taken temporary charge while she recovered from a long-term injury, but her return to fitness meant she had to relinquish the duty. 

Cole has plenty of experience though, having been Director of Football there for four years and previously the first team manager.

Cole has turned his focus to the youth side of the club this year and his happy with how the Under-16s team is progressing in what is their first season at the club.

He said: “Where the Under-16s are, it’s about their development but again you have to instil that winning mentality as well. 

“So, with it being our first season in the JPL we put no undue pressure on the players to say we expect to finish here or there. 

“Technically they are very good players, it’s just about getting them more aware of the game management side of it, being aware of where they are on the field and where they should be, that’s more what I’m working on with them going towards next season.”

Just like Lewes, Crawley have had a dominant run to the final. They won their quarter-final 19-1 against Withdean Youth Under-16 Girls before sealing their place in the final with a 3-0 semi-final win against Eastbourne Borough Youth Under-16s. 

One moment stuck out for Cole in their cup run: “I think the standout moment for me was when our left-back Rogers managed to get herself on the scoresheet.

“I turn round and she is doing a double flip in the air. I was like where did that come from?

“They said she does that in training sometimes when she scores goals!

“When we beat Withdean it was quite soon after I joined, so I was like oh right I might have to get her upfront a bit more often.

“But through the games we have been very respectful of the other sides because we knew that, meaning no disrespect, there was a bit of a different level between the park sides and the players that we are trying to encourage to be our first-team players. 

“But they are very respectful like that to other sides which is good to see.”

Cole is looking forward to the match and is expecting another entertaining encounter between the two sides: “We drew one all which was a very entertaining game so hopefully the Final will be played in the same sort of spirit. They like to play good football. 

“They like their set pieces, which I have been lucky enough to see the footage from their last game, so once they see this interview, they will obviously change a few things.”

Cole’s overriding message to his team for the Final will be to go out and enjoy the occasion: “I just want them to go out and enjoy the experience and if they play as well as I know they can then hopefully we will come out on the right side. 

“They will have more and more of these occasions as they go on in their football careers but do what you do and give your parents something to be proud of.”

Both sides are expecting a good number of family and friends to come out and support the teams in what promises to be an entertaining Cup Final. 

Entry prices are as follows (Cash and Card accepted):

£5.00 Adult (17+)
£3.00 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 Girls' Challenge Cup (Under-16s), please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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