Haywards Heath Town vs. Worthing Town

Ciccardini inspires Haywards Heath to victory

Words by Jamie Spoor
Haywards Heath Town 3-1 Worthing Town

A Tess Ciccardini hat-trick proved the difference yesterday afternoon, as she fired Haywards Heath Town to victory over their Worthing Town counterparts in the final of the inaugural Sussex Girls Challenge Cup (Under-18s) at Culver Road.

It did not take long for the mid-Sussex side to go close, as Grace Simmons thumped the post from distance after neat build up just two minutes in.

Worthing responded in kind through their player of the match Olivia Waller, who burst clear at the other end only to be denied by a good low save from Megan Taylor on the stretch.

That was the first instalment of a running duel between forward and keeper, with Waller bristling with pace and menace, a constant threat to the Heathens defence.

But she would find Taylor consistently in her way and the stopper came out on top again in the 13th minute when Waller was once more denied by an excellent save from close range.

Julia Adolfsdottir let fly from distance, but Worthing failed to heed that warning and saw Heath go in front just shy of the half-hour mark. Adolfsdottir was again involved as she worked herself into a good position to tee up Ciccardini to finish well from ten yards.

Next it was Tamara Clayton’s turn to be called into action. The Worthing Town goalkeeper had walked the proverbial tightrope with referee Russell Brooks having handled outside her area but remained composed to save well from Verity Thompson-Ford.

In a superbly seesawing contest, Waller was at the heart of things again shortly before the interval. Having been released by substitute Tia Stone, she looked poised to score only for Taylor to come to her side’s rescue again with another smart stop.

Worthing’s persistence eventually paid off five minutes after the restart when Stone and Waller linked up for the latter to pick out the onrushing Anna Keskini.

Taylor looked to have done enough to claw the header out, but referee Brooks, aided by his assistant Keith Cullen, correctly judged the ball to have crossed the line and parity was restored.

But no sooner had the dust settled than Haywards Heath had restored their lead. Pippa Fisher’s effort on the angle was deflected behind and, from the resultant corner, Ciccardini’s inswinger evaded everyone and found its way in.

Eight minutes further on and the game was put further out of Worthing’s reach, again thanks to Ciccardini.

Having scored from point blank range and then from a set-piece, this time it was a strike from distance which did the damage. Drifting away from her marker, she looked up and rifled the ball beyond the despairing Clayton for her and her team’s third goal.

Taylor saved twice in quick succession to keep out Waller and Stone as Worthing finished strongly, but they were unable to find a riposte and set up a frantic finish.

Haywards Heath held out in relative comfort to lift the trophy and etch their name into the record books as the first ever winners of this competition.

Heath boss Dave Cole said his side’s victory epitomized everything they have worked towards.

“It was a great game between two top quality sides,” said Cole, “we weren’t quite at it in the first-half, so we had words at half-time. I wanted us to be more aggressive, more proactive and to get on the front foot more.

“The girls took on board what I said, and we took the game away from them with a good ten-minute spell to put ourselves in control, then we just had to manage the game mentally.”

On Taylor and Ciccardini, Cole said: “We are lucky to have both of them, Megs was very disappointed to let that one in as she thought she’d got there but she made some excellent saves, and she was a platform for us to go on and win.

“As for Tess, she’s been putting in performances like this for years, she’s such a threat with her pace and finishing, she really stands out at this level. We’ve managed to keep this team together and reaped the rewards for it, it’s everything we’ve tried to achieve."

Haywards Heath Town vs. Worthing Town
Haywards Heath Town vs. Worthing Town - 10-03-24
Highlights from the Sussex Girls' Challenge Cup Final (Under-18s) - 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 (Haywards Heath Town-Worthing Town): Goals (3-1), Shots (12-6), On Target (6-4), Corners (5-3), Fouls (5-4), Offsides (3-3), Yellow cards (0-0), Red cards (0-0) 

Haywards Heath Town: Taylor, Sinclair, Weisskopf-Strange, Lambert (c), Adolfsdottir, Simmons, Greenway, Thompson-Ford, Ciccardini, Fisher, Dobson. 
Subs: Mean, E.Wood, D.Wood, Bravenboer.

Worthing Town: Clayton, Oakton, Bono, D’Cruz, Keskini, Chapman, Waller, Johnstone, Houston, Martin, Pearson (c).
Subs: Quinn, Levins, M.Sully, Stone, K.Sully.

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