John Davey HERO

Sussex John Davey Cup Final (Under-16s) Preview

AS Eastbourne vs. Burgess Hill Town Juniors

The final of the Sussex John Davey Cup (Under-16s) is set to be played on Sunday 17 March 2024 between AS Eastbourne and Burgess Hill Town Juniors.

AS Eastbourne vs. Burgess Hill Town Juniors
Sussex John Davey Cup Final (Under-16s)
Date: Sunday 17 March 2024
Kick-off: 6:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX

For AS Eastbourne manager, Rhyle Ovenden, he’ll be hoping his team can continue in their current rich vein of form in this Sunday’s Sussex John Davey Cup Final.

A run to the final that includes impressive wins over local rivals Eastbourne Town and Eastbourne Borough is hardly to be sniffed at.

But it was his side's Semi-Final tie against Lancing that took penalties to determine, which Ovenden took the most pride from.

“That game against Lancing was a tough test for sure,” said Ovenden, “they’re a top team and they really pushed us all the way.

“The shootout was also a great experience for the boys to get, and our goalkeeper Zach Kelvey pulled off two incredible saves to get us through.”

Kelvey is just one of a deep squad that Ovenden has at his disposal ahead of the final, and one he’s keen to laud praise on.

“Across the board, each player has really grown up this season,” said Ovenden, “a lot of them have also played under-18s this season, which has been great for their own development.

“That has been really rewarding for those players, to be exposed to a higher level of the game than they might be used to.”

This season marks Ovenden’s fifth with this group at AS Eastbourne, and in that time, he’s seen his players do a lot of growing up.

“I’d say this season is definitely the one where they’ve really kicked on and made that step-up,” said Ovenden.

“They’ve matured and they’re training really well as a group, and I think I can say that this season has been the one where they’ve really grown up.”

This maturity has also been reflected in the sides league form, where they currently sit in fourth with a couple of games in hand.

“We’ve had a good campaign on the whole,” said Ovenden, “we’ve lost some and we’ve won some, but overall have again shown our quality in all our games.

“Of course, with players going up to the under-18s, spots have opened up, so there’s been a fair amount of change in the side, but the main thing is that it’s all pushing everyone on that upwards trajectory.”

One thing’s for sure, Ovenden is going to need everyone in his squad to be ready for the challenge that awaits them in the final in the form of Engand Football Accredited Club, Burgess Hill Town Juniors.

“That’ll be a real tough test that’s without a doubt,” said Ovenden, “they’ve a great side with some really great individuals playing for them.

“So, for the players I’ll just be telling them to have no regrets when they come off that pitch and make the most of having the opportunity to play in such a massive game!”

Sitting in the opposing dugout on Sunday afternoon is Burgess Hill Town Juniors manager, Umberto Oliva.

Like their opponents this weekend, Oliva’s side put together an equally impressive run to the final, culminating in a 7-0 win over AFC Varndeanians in the Semi-Final.

Yet this is to be expected with a team with such a high level of cup experience.

“Back when this team was Hassocks Phoenix, before Burgess Hill Town Juniors invited us to become their Under-16s team, we got to the Quarter-Final year before last, and then the Semi-Final last season, so it’s great to be able to go one better,” said Oliva.

“Last year was a tough one for the boys, having played so well all season, and to go so close, was a hard one to take, but it gave them the determination to make it to the final this season.”

For Oliva, when it comes to lauding praise on his players, he’s quick to highlight those who he sees being potential difference makers come the big day.

“In terms of the standout players, in centre midfield we’ve got Luciano Duarte, who really dictates the play in our games, and does a great job on setting the tempo,” said Oliva.

“Then upfront we’ve got Luca Oliva who’s been on fire banging in the goals, and Harry Hughes at the back, who as captain is great at communicating with the boys, and making sure they all know what job they need to be doing, and that they’re staying positive.”

For Oliva, the final on Sunday holds extra significance, as most of the players in his side have been coached by him since they were at under-10s level.

“It’s a real privilege to be in this position and work with these players,” said Oliva, “they’re a unique group of lads because they’re all grassroots, and they’ve all come from the same school and have really grown up together.

“Seeing them grow up as little kids, coming to training and then heading to various 11-year-old birthday parties, to where they are now, young men who are brilliant at what they do and are still really good mates, is just great.”

Away from their strong cup run, Burgess Hill's good form has also been reflected in the league, where they currently sit top, with the title very much in their hands.

“We’ve played really well throughout the season, and the football we’ve been playing has been of a really good standard,” said Oliva.

“They’re a group that play well together and are winning games together, so every area of their development has been going as good as could be right now.

“The key for me has been that this team knows how to respond from setbacks, and that’s what stood them in such good stead for games like Sunday’s.”

With that in mind, what kind of final is Oliva expecting against Ovenden’s AS Eastbourne?

“They’re an excellent team, and whenever we play them, their games are really tight,” said Oliva, “I think that you’ve got two really good teams who look to play forward and always be on the front foot.

“We’re expecting a tough but great game, but I’d say we're a slightly stronger side, so hopefully that proves the case on the day.

“When I speak to the players, I’ll just be reminding them to relax, enjoy it, be brave and play the way we always play; if they do what they know they need to do, then they’ll be just fine.”

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 John Davey Cup (Under-16s) please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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