Sussex Junior Challenge Cup

Sussex Junior Challenge Cup Final Preview

Words by Kieran Wiggs
Ifield vs. Ovingdean

The final of the Sussex Junior Challenge Cup is set to be played on Thursday 18 April 2024 between Ifield and Ovingdean.

Ifield vs. Ovingdean
Sussex Junior Challenge Cup Final
Date: Thursday 18 April 2024
Kick-off: 7:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX

Reece Clarke’s young Ifield side have enjoyed a glorious cup run which has seen two very tight games unfold on their journey to the final, although both played out completely different.

“In our game against Eastbourne Rangers in the quarter-final from half-time it went 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, and then Jackson Preston scored the winner near the end of the game,” said Clarke.

“It was quite uplifting for a fairly young team, getting a late winner especially when we had a few under-18s helping us as well and one of them scored in the game.

“But in the semi-final against Crawley United it was a difficult game because it wasn’t on a great pitch. It was a defensive first-half and we went out for the attack in the second-half, and luckily Glen Carr managed to squeeze a winner midway through the half and we held onto the lead.”

In general, all of Clarke’s players have stood out to him in previous seasons. Although he stresses that the key advantage, from his perspective, is the remarkable two talents that joined his squad at the start this season; one controls the midfield and the other protects the net and he hopes they will both prove most beneficial for the final on Thursday.

“We have had a couple new people come in; Carr came in and helped us out from the start of the season, and has made a difference to our team,” said Clarke.

“And having a goalkeeper which kept us in the game from the first round of the cup making two saves in the penalty shoot-out.”

Despite finishing bottom of the Gray Hooper Holt LLP Mid Sussex Football League, Clarke’s side have proved to be an impressive side in the cup, and he emphasised how incredible it has been for his young squad reaching a men’s final.

“It is one of our biggest achievements getting this far in the cup; we are still a young side,” he added.

Considering this, what type of challenge does Clarke anticipate from Ovingdean on Thursday evening?

“I think they are going to be an experienced side with a few older players, whereas we have got quite a few youngsters, but we’re all friendly with each other and know each other quite well” he said.

“We will need to be disciplined and take chances as and when we can to attack.”

Similar to Ifield, Ovingdean encountered a turbulent journey to the final, requiring a penalty shootout to distinguish them from Portslade Athletic in the quarter-final.

“They were 2-1 up at half-time and then we played a bit better in the second-half and equalised. It was a really even game; 2-2 was a fair result. You never know with penalty shootouts it can go either way,” said manager, Stephen East.

“We were expecting a really tough game against Rudgwick in the semi-final and right from the kick-off we were well up for it and we were 4-0 up within 30 minutes, they were in shock the way the goals were going in.

“They did get a goal back but by then the damage was done. That was our best game of the whole cup run.”

Having just won the Brighton, Worthing & District Football League for a second consecutive season by a great distance; East highlighted the key factor for his side’s success is the strength in depth and talent within the team. East emphasised how it is making it hard to pick his starting 11 in a squad of players who all deserve to start the cup final as they aim for the double. 

When asked which player in his opinion could determine whether his side will seek victory and lift the cup on Thursday night. East said: “Our outstanding player has got to be our top goal scorer and captain who has got 36 goals in all competitions so far this season, Af Williams.

“Our outstanding player has got to be our top goal-scorer, and captain, who has 36 goals in all competitions so far this season, Af Williams,” said East.

“Our second top goal scorer with 10 goals, Jordan Rudwick is unavailable to play so there is a lot riding on Af’s shoulders.”

Focusing on the final, despite never facing Ifield, East is well aware of the challenge posed and has no illusions about it from their impressive cup run.

“Getting to the final, they have done brilliantly so we are expecting a tough game,” he said.

“They have had some good results on the way to the final, they have beaten two teams from our league; including Boys Brigade Old Boys First who they beat in the third round 4-0, and they are a decent team, and they beat Crawley United who are a good side.”

Highlighting the achievement of reaching the final, East is more than proud of how far the club have come.

“To get to the final is brilliant, as we have been going competitively now for 22 years, and we have always competed in the County Cup,” said East.

“So, to get to the final is brilliant and to win it would be amazing, a real landmark for our club, and I think for the Brighton League in general it would be a real boost.”

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 Junior Challenge Cup please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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