Under-23s HERO

Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup Final Preview

Words by Will Kirkup
Eastbourne Town vs Eastbourne United Association

The Final of the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup is set to be played on Wednesday 15 May 2024 between Eastbourne Town and Eastbourne United Association.

Eastbourne Town vs. Eastbourne United Association
Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup Final
Date: Wednesday 15 May 2024
Kick-off: 7:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX

Eastbourne Town manager Shaun Lee said it would “mean everything” to win the Sussex Under-23s Challenge Cup ahead of the final against Eastbourne United Association at Culver Road.

“This is the cup I wanted to win, because I think at Under-23s level, this is the best competition you can win, so for me personally it means everything.”

En route to the final Town managed an impressive victory against holders Horsham YMCA in the second round, and an unbelievable 4-3 victory over Mile Oak in the quarter-finals, where they came from 3-0 down.

Lee was quick to point out that for his side it has taken “a lot of dedication” to reach the final, and that individual work by the players has been key to their success.

“I normally get the players to just go out and do their own bits over the weekend, just to make sure they’re keeping fit. So, it's self-motivation, I always say to the players, the hard work gets rewarded, so those extra bits, they do reward you, and we’ve got to a cup final,” said Lee.

“I don’t think any of them have been in a County Cup Final before, so we’ll go in enjoying it, enjoying the occasion, and just play our game, and take the game to them,” he continued.

On whether the derby gives the game an extra edge, Lee said: “It can do, but I think that can be a distraction sometimes, so I think we’ve just got to play it like a cup final, regardless of who it is.

“I think we just play our game, if we play our game on the night I believe we can beat them.”

Lee said there is plenty of potential in his squad, and cited forward Tyler Pearson, who has 11 goals in 17 appearances this season, as a major threat.

On the importance of cup victory to the players, Lee said: “While you’re young, while you’re in the Under-23s, you're always on the hunt to make memories and pick up a medal.

“I think they want this more than anything, I think this is the competition they want, because I think it’ll mean the world to them as well.”

Eastbourne United boss Bailo Camara said the derby gives his players “extra motivation” ahead of the final.

“They know players from [the opposition] team, some of them probably go to college together or they’ve played together before, so all this gives them extra motivation,” said Camara.

United have already been crowned champions of the Under-23s Southern Combination Football League East and finished 13 points above Town in fifth.

Their only league defeat came in a 3-1 home defeat on the first day of the season against Newhaven, and they have since won 11 and drawn four since.

“I think that was a big turning point for the boys because I didn’t think they did believe that they could go and reach such a high potential.

“So, I think it was just a case of installing that belief in the boys that we could go on and have an amazing season and I think they just bought into it, and then they’ve been performing ever since.”

Camara said the approach going into the final will be the same as every game they’ve played this season, which included a 3-2 victory over Town last September.

“It doesn’t matter whether it was for the Under-23s Challenge Cup or for league games, we just go with that winning mentality, try to play our football, and do everything we’ve done since September to go and win the game,” said Camara.

It’s been a smoother route to the final for United, who have scored a combined 15 goals in their four games, which included a 6-1 victory over Ferring in the first round.

And they edged a 1-0 away victory at Bexhill United to reach the final. In the semi-final, Camara said: “It was a tight game, they were expecting us to come in and then get hold of the game and so yeah, it was tough, but the boys still did the job.

“They were patient the way they played, and they knew if they got quality chances eventually they would go and win the game, so they just needed to remain calm.”

Camara had plenty of praise for his team, who have also won the Under-23s Southern Combination Challenge Cup.

“Everyone has had an amazing season; they’ve been really consistent but obviously they’re always standout players.

“For me my standout player this season has been Ed Ratcliffe. Overall, we’ve got a really good squad, with great solidity and really great balance.”

He cited Tyler Pearson as the main threat from Town: “They’ve got a little bit of experience, one of their centre forwards [Tyler Pearson] used to play under me for AFC Uckfield Town years ago so I know him really well, he’s a really good player. So, I think he will be their main threat.”

On the emotion going into the game, Camara said: “My squad is really young, so I think it will be more feelings of excitement than actually nerves to be honest.

“It would be amazing especially with such a young squad and with it being such a long season, I think it will be just amazing to have the boys achieve such a big win against their local rivals!”

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 Under-23s Challenge Cup please contact:

T: 01903 753547
E: Competitions@SussexFA.com

Related News

View All