Girls Challenge Cup HERO

Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup Final (Under-13s) Preview

Words by Luke Ashbery
Withdean Youth vs. Hove Park Colts

The final of the Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup (Under-13s) is set to be played on Sunday 14 April 2024 between Withdean Youth and Hove Park Colts. 

Withdean Youth vs. Hove Park Colts
Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup Final (Under-13s)
Date: Sunday 14 April 2024
Kick-off: 10:30am
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX 

Chris Penny, manager of Withdean Youth, is very much looking forward to their final against league rivals Hove Park Colts. 

“It’s Brighton’s answer to El Clásico!” said Penny.

“We’ve played against them twice in the league this year, losing the first game and drawing the most recent match 2-2. 

“In our first two years, at Under-10s and Under-11s, we dominated in the league but since then Hove have been the strongest team in the Premier Division. 

“They won it last year and are flying high again this season.”

Penny will be stepping down at the end of the season having coached the team for the last four years.

He said: “The development in the girls has been incredible, it’s been a real journey. 

“We were born during the pandemic in 2020 which was difficult, but everyone has been brilliant.

“Since then, we’ve had one girl join Crystal Palace, one invited to the Brighton & Hove Albion Talent Centre, one who has represented Sussex, and maybe nine or ten who have been in the Brighton School teams. 

“It’s amazing, especially given the team was formed from a group of 12 girls who attended the same primary school and two others who loved football locally.”

That core of players remaining together, and the team spirit is what Penny attributes their success to, rather than any individual. 

He added: “Playing as a unit is our strength, we have always stuck together and have developed a very close-knit squad over the years. 

“Even though they are in year eight now - a couple of years away from GCSEs - they love being together and playing football.

“Unfortunately, there are three girls who must miss out, that’s been the hardest thing [selecting the squad for the final]. 

“I’ll be saying to the girls do it for your friends, you’ve been together since day one, and if we get the win, it will be for everyone not just those taking a part in the final!”

On their route to the final Penny said: “We had a big win against lower league Lindfield Leopards, but the biggest result we had along the way was the win on penalties against Burgess Hill Town who are a very strong team.

“Our goalkeeper was inspired that day making two massive saves, to get us through to the quarter-final.”

“Beating Pevensey & Westham 7-1 in the semi-final was another highlight and one of the best games we played.”

Penny went on to add that he would not be making any drastic tactical changes for the big occasion but teased that they had been working on some things in training. 

“Tactically it will be business as usual, but we did produce a big surprise for them in the last game, working on a corner routine in training which resulted in us winning a penalty.

“We’ve got another couple of surprises up our sleeve for Hove in the final, but other than that it will be like how we have played all season, so the girls are comfortable. 

“We’ve done well to reach the final so why would we change it now?”

Their opponents, Hove Park Colts, are having an excellent season, currently sitting top of the league, and looking to add a cup win.   

Manager, Christopher Owen, said: “I’ve been managing the girls for four seasons now, and those who have been there from the start have been brilliant, they are all so skilful and keen - just a joy to coach.

“We have lost a couple of players, one to Brighton, one to West Ham but we’ve been able to replace them.

“It’s great that we have had some new players come along, so we have no weak links.

“I am proud to have overseen that transition, where they are now flourishing.”

Despite Owen emphasising the team’s strength across the board he did single two players out for special praise, saying:

“I have to mention our captain, Annabelle Stickland, she’s an attacking midfielder whose stamina is amazing, she never stops running and is great at winning the ball back. 

“And then upfront, Gracie Cobb, she has a stinging left foot and is good at finding space and getting shots on goal.”

Although success has come on the pitch, Owen seemed just as pleased with their development off it. 

He said: “Some of the girls play for the county, some play for the district, so they are playing all over the place. 

“Our ethos is to enjoy each other’s company and play football in a nice friendly environment.

“The girls are playing cohesively as a team and that is what we base ourselves on, it’s about having fun as well. 

“All in all, the team has grown together, we have social events, opportunities for them to have fun and talk to each other to build relationships with people outside of school.”

Owen explained he will be focusing on telling the girls to remain calm during the final, so they can go out and play their style of attractive football. 

“They’ll be more excited the closer it gets to kick-off but you’ve just got to manage that by not making it out to be too serious, just play and pass, we are a calm team and that is how we have got to this stage.

“I’ll say to them I don’t mind what happens, win, lose, or draw, as long as they remain calm and play their football on the ground and put on a show for the right reasons, whilst enjoying it, that is all that counts.”

“I will encourage them to get as many touches of the ball as possible early on, making sure they keep their heads up. 

“Ultimately, I don’t want them going home thinking they could have done more and having regrets.”

On Withdean Youth, Owen added: “I wasn’t around when we beat them in the first game at their place, and then the home game ended in a 2-2 draw. 

“They are a tall team and strong physically, so it will be a tough test against what is effectively our local rivals.”

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)
Official Match Day Programme will be available online

For further details about the Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup (Under-13s) please contact:

T: 01903 753547

Related News

View All