Sussex Girls' Challenge Cup HERO

Sussex Girls' Challenge Cup Final (Under-15s) Preview

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Southwater Royals

The final of the Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup (Under-15s) is set to be played on Sunday 24 March 2024 between Brighton & Hove Albion and Southwater Royals.

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Southwater Royals
Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup Final (Under-15s)
Date: Sunday 24 March 2024
Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX

For Lewis Walter’s Brighton & Hove Albion side, their run to this weekend’s Sussex Girls’ Challenge Cup Final (Under-15s) was very much a tale of two very different games.

“Our game against Chichester City in the Quarter-Final was very much a day where our attacking players really shone,” said Walter.

“But then the Semi-Final game against Bognor Regis Town was a very different match - we found ourselves 2-0 down, and the girls had to really dig deep to pull that one back to 2-2.

“Then when it came to the penalties, they were able to keep calm and send us through to the Final.

“It was a great cup run for them to experience, as they got both the confidence in their attacking abilities from the first game, and the belief that they can stay in games until the end, from the second.”

With a talented squad to call upon, Walter is quick to emphasise that, for him, the greatest advantage is the fact that each of his players can be a real difference maker in any given opportunity.

“Looking at our squad, there isn’t one or two players who stand out, because each of them has the ability to step up,” said Walter.

“We’ve had games where one player has really shone, but then in the next match it’s someone completely different, so come the Final on Sunday, it could genuinely be any of the girls that come out and shine.”

Despite having only been with this group of players for less than a full season, Walter has been highly impressed with the speed in which his players have developed.

“It’s great to be able to see, game by game, how each of them is progressing, both in terms of the physicality of their game and their technical ability,” said Walter.

“The way they’re now able to take on information is a real testament to their hard work, and how much they want to learn and grow as players.”

Away from their cup run, it’s also been a good season in the Junior Premier League (JPL) for Walter’s side, with the league they’re in being made up mostly of boy’s teams, to provide a different test to his Brighton side.

“I’ve been really pleased with the way we’ve performed in the league, and how the team has coped with challenges of playing at that level,” said Walter.

“Whenever we’ve played friendlies against girls’ teams, you can really see the impact that playing against boys’ teams has had on us, in terms of our physicality and speed of play, which is great to see.”

With this in mind, just what kind of test is Walter expecting from Southwater Royals this Sunday?

“Looking at their results and their own journey to the Final, it’s clear that, like us, they’re a side with goals in them,” said Walter.

“We’ve never seen them play, so from our side, we’re relishing the unknown, and I’m looking forward to seeing how our girls are able to deal with that and problem solve on the day.

“That ability to work a team out and adapt during a game to not only score goals, but prevent them from doing so, is something we’re really keen to push in their development, so we’re really looking forward to that challenge.

“But regardless of the result, it’s going to be a special day for the team, so I’ll just be reminding them to enjoy the moment, because it’s not every day you get to play in a Cup Final!”

Like Brighton, for Southwater Royals, their run to the Final was hardly smooth sailing, with a penalty shootout needed to separate them and Eastbourne Borough.

“That was a real end-to-end game against Eastbourne, that’s for sure,” said Manager, Simon Hulcoop, “3-3 in normal time and then it was straight to penalties, but thankfully they went our way, and we were able to advance to the Semi-Final.

“Cuckfield were again a tough test, but the girl’s really showed determination to get the all-important goal, and how they’ve been rewarded with a final against Brighton.”

For Hulcoop, there are several players who, for him, have really made that all important step up this season.

“Starting at the back with our goalkeeper Grace McCall, she’s come on leaps and bounds, and made some massive saves, especially in that shootout against Eastbourne Borough,” said Hulcoop.

“Then you’ve also got the likes of Sydonie Lee at centre-back who’s been outstanding, and also our captain Elena Cox who plays upfront and is always the one never giving up, and always looking to make the difference for us.

“But everyone has been great this season, from those staring, to the players coming on as subs to help get us over the line, it’s been a real team effort getting to this Final.”

Hulcoop is especially keen to highlight this team effort, considering that the majority of the side have been together since they were an Under-10s side.

“This side were the second girls team we started up at Southwater Royals nearly six-years-ago, so to see how they’ve come on as players in that time, has been incredible,” said Hulcoop.

“As they’ve grown, it’s also been great seeing how women’s football has grown at the club, and now we’re in a position where we’ve got teams in every age group, and just one team away from putting out an adult side in the Sussex County Women and Girls’ Football League.”

Back to the game in hand though, and Hulcoop is under no illusions regarding the test that awaits them in the form of Brighton.

“It’ll be an extremely tough game that’s for sure,” said Hulcoop, “but we’ll go there and give a good account of ourselves and play our football.

“We’ve been doing lots of work in the background, but we just need to remember that we’re a small club from Southwater that’s made the County Cup Final, and that’s something to be really proud of.

“The girls are all really excited, and doing all the important jobs like getting the Spotify playlist ready, and we’ve been thinking about how we deal with an academy team.

“We know it’ll be a hard task, but we’ll give 110% and with a cup final, you just never know what might happen on the day!”

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-15s) please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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