Sunday Challenge Trophy HERO

Sussex Sunday Challenge Trophy Final Preview

AFC Romans vs. Valley Rovers Old Boys

The final of the Sussex Sunday Challenge Trophy is set to be played on Thursday 7 March 2024 between AFC Romans and Valley Rovers Old Boys.

AFC Romans vs. Valley Rovers Old Boys
Sussex Sunday Challenge Trophy Final
Date: Thursday 7 March 2024
Kick-off: 7:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX

For Charlie Martin’s AFC Romans, next week’s Sussex Sunday Challenge Trophy Final could be the cherry on the cake of a remarkable season for the Shoreham-by-Sea side.

Yet as Martin is keen to stress, their road to the final was hardly straightforward.

“First up for us was a really tight game against Bison Beer,” said Martin, “but that’s a side we’ve played countless times over the years, and there’s always not much to separate us, so that 3-2 win really had to be earned that day.

“Then with the match against Horsham Crusaders in the Quarter-Finals, that was a strange one because believe it or not that was 0-0 at half-time, we just really turned it on after the break and managed to put five past them.

“That game in the Semi’s against Crew Club Hawks proved again a difficult one, but in this team there’s just so much experience when it comes to getting the job done, I was never really too concerned we’d be able to get the result we wanted.”

This good form for the Romans very much extends to the Sussex Sunday Football League, where Martin’s side are in the driving seat to win their division, as they currently sit second, a point behind first but with three games in hand.

“Since the end of October we’ve won 15 games on the bounce,” said Martin, “and there’s been some good performances in there, but we’re not the kind of team that go in and smash teams for six or seven.

“As a group we just know how to win, and once we go a goal up that experience comes in.

“So hopefully we can get the league done and dusted this weekend and then really start to turn our attention to the final.”

Such a consistent run can only be put down to an impressive performance from the whole team, but who would Martin pick out as being the players that have really helped push them on this season?

“Everyone has been a solid performer this season,” said Martin, “but of course there are those players that have consistently stepped up, such as Dion Jones, who’s bagged 24 goals for us, and if ever you want a chance to drop to someone, it’s him.

“We’ve also got some great lads at the back, who would probably say that they should have got a few more goals themselves, what with the amount of good chances from set-plays that we’ve created.

“But overall a good solid squad and a great group of lads, and it’s been a long time coming in terms of putting together a run like this together.”

A long time coming it has been indeed for Romans, with Martin himself having first joined as a player nearly nine years ago.

“There are about five or six of us who’ve been with a club approaching nine years,” said Martin, “we all played for a man called Jeremy Allan, who unfortunately passed away a few years back.

“Then five or so years ago I took up the player/manager role, but then I did my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), so haven’t been playing much this season.

“But this is a great group, win, lose or draw, we’re all having a drink together afterwards and that social side, same as for many clubs at this level, is what it’s all about.”

Looking ahead to the final, just what kind of test are Roman’s expecting against Valley Rovers Old Boys on Thursday night?

“It’s going to be one of the toughest games we’ve played this season, that’s for sure,” said Martin, “They’re going to be a strong side, but for us, as long we go out and do the jobs we know we should and can do, the game should take care of itself.

“They certainly know where the goal is, but at the same time I don’t think it’ll be a goal-fest, such is the nature of a cup final.

“But it’s a test we’re looking forward to and one that hopefully we can come away with a win from!”

Looking to stand in the way of Roman’s potential league and cup double is Valley Rovers Old Boys.

For manager Ian South, the final holds special significance as he approaches the end of his 25th and final season with the club.

Yet, much like Romans, South’s Valley Rovers have had a far from an easy run to the final.

“I remember as soon as I saw the draws we got that I knew it was going to be a difficult one,” said South, “of course we started strong against Hove’s reserve side, but then to get drawn to Westfield Sunday away was a real punch in the gut.

“But I’m lucky in the sense that a lot of our boys haven’t won the County Cup, so there’s that hunger in the group to make it each season, which always means they make themselves available for those ties, even if it means travelling all the way to Hastings!

“So yeah we got the job done and it was mostly smooth sailing until the Semi-Final when we had a real test against AFC Goring. But thankfully in the second-half we just went up a gear and got the job done.”

When it comes to the makeup of South’s side, it’s very much one of experience across the board.

“What makes us so unique as a team is that 75% of us are over 40,” said South, “and those players play in three different teams across different leagues.

“Along with that we’re also an incredibly close group, made up of several fathers and sons, brothers, brothers-in-law’, or even old school mates going back decades.

“That connection helps bring enjoyment, and that in turn brings success.”

With such a tight knit group, South’s keen to stress that each player has put in a real shift for the team this season.

When it comes to the final though, who does he see as being the difference makers?

“One of the first names that comes to my mind is Dane Amiet,” said South, “he’s one of those players that, if he was 6 foot tall, he’d be a professional, he’s that good.

“Then you’ve got the likes of Lewis Cash, he scored two free-kicks in our cup final last weekend, and they were Soccer AM worthy!

“But it’s a team game and everyone does everything together, be it walking out onto the pitch, or attending one of the lads’ weddings in a few weeks’ time - our social life is football, and it’s proper Sunday football.”

Of course, for South, such is the nature of being manager and secretary of a club, that there are more jobs he does do than doesn't at Valley Rovers.

“At this club the jobs I need to do day-to-day can range from being a bank manager to the kit man,” said South, “honestly there’s nothing you don’t do, but you do it because you love it.

“But this is going to be my swansong with the club, and with this being the last trophy I’m yet to win, this is a game that I’m going to be well up for, that’s for sure.”

With that in mind, what South’s message to the players going to be on Thursday night?

“Don’t let your friends down, don’t let the person next to you down, and enjoy it, because you just never know if you’ll ever get to a final again.

“As a team, we win together and we lose together, but whatever happens, we can say that we put a shift in.

“For us it’s more than football, it’s meeting up with your mates on a Sunday, and that’s how it should be.”

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 Sunday Challenge Trophy please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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