Girls' Challenge Cup HERO

Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup Final (Under-18s) Preview

Haywards Heath Town vs. Worthing Town

The final of the Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup (Under-18s) is set to be played on Sunday 10 March 2024 between Haywards Heath Town and Worthing Town.

Haywards Heath Town vs. Worthing Town
Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup Final (Under-18s)
Date: Sunday 10 March 2024
Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX

For Haywards Heath Town Manager, Dave Cole, it’s very much a case of same venue, same players’, new team as he prepares for the inaugural Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup Final (Under-18s).

With his team consisting mostly of the same crop of players that lifted last season’s Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup (Under-16s) as Crawley Wasps, prior to their merger with Haywards Heath Town at the end of the 2022-23 season, Coles side showed that same winning mentality this season, starting in the Quarter-Final with an 8-0 win over Newhaven.

“With our team training twice a week, what we found with that game against Newhaven was that it started a quite competitive match,” said Cole, “but as the game went on you could see them start to drop off a bit.

“So, with most of the goals coming after that point, I’d say the scoreline certainly flattered us.

“Then the game against Littlehampton Town, the pitch did play its part, but we dominated in the first-half and they defended very well.

“But once we got that first one things started to open up and we were able to come away with that 4-0 win.”

With those wins a snapshot of a strong season for Haywards Heath, who would Cole point to as being the key difference makers in his squad?

“For me straight away I’d say Ella Greenway,” said Cole, “she started out at full-back, but had always been asking to go upfront.

“So, pre-season I said we’d give it a go and see what happened, and she’s taken to it like a duck to water, and even though she’s not the most imposing player, she’s very tricky and knows where the goal is!”

Of course, for Cole and many of his players, this season has been their first in the blue of Haywards Heath.

Yet with many continuing on in the team that lifted the cup last year, it’s been a smooth transition on the pitch for his side.

“We’ve been lucky to have kept the majority of those players from last season, and in doing so, that confidence they gained from that cup win has carried right on through,” said Cole.

“We’re more than holding our own in the Junior Premier League (JPL), and currently sit in third, which has been great.

“Whereas before there were times where we’d be in games, and then they’d get away from us, we’ve really held our own in all our matches, even in the ones we didn’t win, which has been seen from a development side of things.”

If Cole’s players are going to make it two cup wins in a row at Culver Road, they’ll have to get past a strong Worthing Town side.

“We have played Worthing Town before in the league a couple of times and come away with some hard-fought wins against them,” said Cole, “and whilst the first game was a really tight scrapy game, the next time we played them, we were a lot more in control.

“But we know the danger they pose, especially on the counter-attack where they can really hurt us, and of course it’s a one-off game, and in such games sometimes things don’t go to plan, so we’ll have to be switched on for sure.”

With that in mind, what’s Cole’s message to his players ahead of the big game?

“Just enjoy it, enjoy the experience and take it all in because it goes in a flash,” said Cole.

“You’re there to make memories that maybe you'll tell the grandkids about one day and show them the photos from the day and say, ‘I was there that year we won it.’”

Standing in their way is Sam Karacochi’s Worthing Town, who, despite their own rather straightforward run to the final, are under no illusions of the test that awaits them.

Yet Karacochi is lucky to be able to call upon players that have continued to perform for him, week-in-week-out.

“Players such as Isabell Chapman, our number eight in central midfield, and then Claudia Bono, our main centre-back, and our top goal-scorer in Tia Stone, have all come together to form a really solid spine in this team,” said Karacochi.

“Upfront we’re really lucky to have such a good front three, so with them playing, we’re always going to have a chance of putting a chance or two away.”

For Karacochi, his involvement with this team goes back all the way to their times as Under-12s at Worthing Town, when he first got involved coaching them.

“Most of the girls in the squad have only ever played for us, so it’s been great to see their development because many of them, when they first came along, had never kicked a football before.

“They’d come along because a friend has recommended it to them, and that’s how we’ve grown, through that positive word of mouth.”

With the nature of their team’s growth, Karacochi is keen to highlight the special nature of the dynamic between the players that it’s created.

“This isn’t a team made up of trialists or players from other squads,” said Karacochi, “it’s players who go to school together, and who invite their friends to come along.

“Then starting from square one with them, in terms of teaching them about working in a formation, finding out what position they like, and working with them on that.

“You can overload players with information so easily, but if you can get the players knowing the basics of what they need to do, and have a set-up that works for the players, is the real key and tends to work for us.”

With this approach, also comes a different view on what marks out the top performers in any given game in Karacochi’s eyes.

“For me, my player of the match won’t always go to the one who’s scored all the goals, or made the clearance off the line,” said Karacochi.

“It’s all about which player has given the best performance according to their given role within the team, because, as I tell the girls, I don’t care about the result nearly as much as I care about the performances on the pitch.

“If a player has implemented her role in exactly the way we asked to ahead of the game, then they’ll be the one getting the plaudits from me at full-time.”

Looking ahead to Sunday though, just what kind of contest is Karacochi expecting from Haywards Heath Town?

“In those two games we played them, I know we didn’t give the best account of ourselves on those days,” said Karacochi.

“In each of those games we went into the break at 0-0, but in the second-half, their pressing and their passing simply proved too much for us, and in the end cost us in both games.

“They’ve got a good coach in Dave Cole, and I remember him switching up formations during our last game to counter what we were doing to them, so he’s got them really well drilled that’s for sure.

“But in each game against them we learned more lessons, both on how to get the edge over them, and how we can look to improve our own game, so we’re all looking forward to the test that Sunday brings!”

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-18s) please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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