AFC Varndeanians Reserves vs. Cuckfield Town HERO

Waterman the hero for Varndeanians

Words by A. Ayush Chatterjee
AFC Varndeanians Reserves 1-0 Cuckfield Town

Wednesday evening saw AFC Varndeanians Reserves beat Cuckfield Town 1-0 to win the Sussex Junior Challenge Cup Final at Culver Road as 212 fans watched on.

Varndeanians started the game strongly with most of the early possession in the game as they looked to impose themselves on the pitch. 

Cuckfield looked dangerous on the counterattack and were physical in their defending, which was reflected in the number of early fouls given away by James Ballantyne’s side.

Conor Carolan had the first meaningful chance of the game for Cuckfield but his effort fizzed over the Varndeanians goal. 

Varndeanians went up the other end almost immediately with Matt Waterman on the counterattack before seeing his shot on goal saved by Mike Jones between the sticks for Cuckfield.

Cuckfield’s best chance of the half came in the 35th minute when Ashton Pettifer stole a march on his marker before firing a shot at goal, which was brilliantly palmed away by Eddie Cockcroft. 

The Varndeanians custodian then sprang up instantaneously to deny Fin Dye on the follow-up to keep the score level.

A cagey first-half ended in a stalemate but not for the want of trying from either side but that changed soon after the second-half commenced.

Ruben Holliss’ side came out of the gates raring to go in the final 45 minutes and almost scored from a set-piece when Frankie Elliott came within inches of putting the ball into the back of the net.

However, the V’s didn’t have to wait long for their next chance on goal, this time coming from Waterman, who found himself in a bit of space 30-yards-out, and decided to have shot, which proved too powerful for Jones in the Cuckfield goal, who could only watch it nestle in the bottom corner.

Taking the lead brought an air of confidence to Varndeanians’ play while Cuckfield tried their best to regroup.

Town thought they had found a way back into the game when Rory Beard managed to divert a free-kick into the back of the net with a looping header. However, the celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee who had raised his flag for offside.

Waterman came close to doubling his tally on more than occasion, being denied first by a solid save from Jones and then a last ditch block by Cuckfield defender Lewis Glazebrook.

Cuckfield managed to fashion a couple of late chances but they did little to bother Cockcroft in the V’s goal. Their night ended on a sour note when substitute Mike Devereux was sent off for a second yellow just before the full-time whistle.

After the match, an elated Holliss shared his thoughts on what was a momentous evening for him and his side. He said:

“It is difficult to sum it up. It is the coming together of a lot of players’ hard work. It means the world. It was a great turnout today. 

“I’ve barely got enough oxygen in my lungs to even talk about it! It is an incredibly proud moment for me but all credit to the boys and credit to Cuckfield Town really, who have given us a really difficult game today.”

Holliss was also effusive in his praise of match winner Matt Waterman. When asked to comment on his performance in the final, the 33-year-old said:

“He scored a good goal, no, he scored a great goal. Matt is someone I know very well, and he has contributed very regularly with goals this season. 

“I’ve seen him score goals like that for the last ten years, so he is a credit and an asset to the club and long may it continue.”

Holliss also commended the rest of the side for holding strong throughout the 90 minutes to keep their clean-sheet intact. He said:

“We said from the word go that whatever happens today, we go together and always in any football match, there are moments when as a team you do have to dig in and you do have to suffer as a team. 

“But credit to the boys. They stuck to their guns. They pulled shoulder to shoulder and they’ve got the win today."

AFC Varndeanians Reserves vs. Cuckfield Town YT Thumbnail
AFC Varndeanians Reserves vs. Cuckfield Town - 29-03-23
Highlights of the Sussex Junior Challenge Cup 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 (AFC Varndeanians Reserves-Cuckfield Town): Goals (1-0); Shots (15-8); On Target (7-4); Corners (5-1); Fouls (8-16); Offsides (1-0); Yellow Cards (1-1); Red Cards (0-1).

AFC Varndeanians Reserves: Cockcroft; Blackford, McGreal, Duica, Elliott; Cross, Dearlove, Barton-Hague, Udida, Waterman, Warren.
Subs: Bennett, Sayan, Todd, Wright, Stone. 

Cuckfield Town: Jones; Gayler, Ormonde, Glazebrook, Beard, Pettifer, Barnes, Dye, Carolan, Rusling, Quick.
Subs: Albuquerque, Holman, Devereux, Ghosh, Whitner.

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