Woodingdean Wanderers vs. BN Dons

Determined Dons retain Sunday Cup

Words by Jamie Spoor
Woodingdean Wanderers 0-1 BN Dons

Thursday night belonged to BN Dons, as they held out against Woodingdean Wanderers to retain the Sussex Sunday Challenge Cup, thanks to Harley Demario’s first-half strike.

Demario capped an impressive performance of pace and power with the decisive strike ten minutes before half-time, as his clever lob settled the contest against his side’s fierce divisional rivals.

The Dons striker started as he meant to go on, as with just five minutes on the clock, Demario twisted and turned his marker inside the area, and fired a shot on goal only to see the ball flash narrowly beyond the upright.

BN Dons were winning the ball high and pressing Woodingdean into deep areas where they were able to build through midfield and attack at pace.

Jesse Burbridge went close from distance, with Wanderers keeper Wes Coleman forced into the first save of the night to tip the shot over.

With just over 10 minutes on the clock, and having been played through by his skipper, Khalid Bilal, Demario looked poised to put his side in front, only for Wanderers keeper Coleman to rush out and take the full force of the shot with his face to deny him an opener.

The best chance of the half for Woodingdean to break the deadlock came just after 20 minutes, when Marley Amber found himself with only Elliott Tucker in the Dons goal to beat, but having skipped round the onrushing keeper, Ambler dallied, and Tucker was able to get down and recover.

Then came the seminal moment and, fittingly, it was that man Demario who provided it.

This time, he was not to be thwarted by Coleman and prevailed in his duel with the keeper as his clever lob through a crowd of players found its way in.

From then on, it always looked an uphill task for the 2022 winners.

The match had started at a frenetic pace, but the tempo and intensity slowed as the clock ticked down with clear cut chances at a premium.

Woodingdean substitutes, Ed Bradley and Tariq Richards, combined for the latter to go close, before captain Max Jeffery nodded wide with his header at the back post.

But with Wanderers having to chase the game, their attacks grew increasingly frantic, with the Dons content to contain and hit their opponents on the counter.

Demario almost added a second and Josh Gould could have put the result beyond any lingering doubt, but his shot was cleared from under the crossbar by a defender.

That looked to be the final action of the game, but Woodingdean were handed, quite literally, the latest of lifelines with a free-kick on the very edge of the area in the dying seconds.

Beebee’s side could have saved themselves and set up the drama of a penalty shootout, but James Waters' set piece failed to find the net, and, with that, the cup was won.

Speaking after the game, Dons manager Charlie Brown couldn’t have been prouder of the performance his team put in.

“We pride ourselves on our attacking play,” said Brown, “our pressing, our creativity and the way we try to play. But tonight, I felt our defence won us the game, we kept them at arm’s length and were so well organised.

“We all know Harley [Demario] is a player of real quality, but I also thought Luke [Burbridge] was magnificent in there for us. He went down with cramp and we had to take him off for a breather but he couldn’t sit still. He had to get back out there and for me that epitomised his performance.

Assistant Manager, Tony Woods added: “It’s fitting we’ve achieved this tonight as last year’s win was the last trophy Matt Major (the late Sussex County FA chairman) handed out and I think we showed a lot of the qualities he would have liked - hard work, teamwork, determination and desire.

“Me and many of our lads were close to Matt so we feel we’ve owed him that. We’re doing well in the league and now have this cup in the cabinet again, so we can go and enjoy this one."

Woodingdean Wanderers vs. BN Dons
Woodingdean Wanderers vs. BN Dons - 25-01-24
Highlights of the Sussex Sunday 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 (Woodingdean Wanderers-BN Dons): Goals (0-1); Shots (8-8); Shots-on-target (3-5); Corners (3-4); Fouls (8-8); Offsides (4-5); Yellow cards (2-2); Red cards (0-0)

Woodingdean Wanderers: Coleman, Legrange, Jeffery (c), Jutton, Bollingbroke, Boland, Edmeads, Ambler, Smith, Waters, Beebee.
Subs: Bradley, Richards, Burstow, B.Sullivan, Gillam.

BN Dons: Tucker; J.Green, Lockwood, J.Burbridge, Whitehouse, Kladis, B.Green, L.Burbridge, Bilal (c), Gould, Demario. 
Subs: Leggett, Goldson, Pixley, Brown, Mitchell.

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