Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Newhaven 3 v 1 Arundel

Monday 4th May 2015
Peter Bentley Challenge Cup Final
Gorings Mead, Horsham
Admission including Programme: £6.00
Attendance: 505
Match Rating: 4

For my May Day bank holiday football double header, I started off with taking in my last ever match under the organisation of the Sussex County Football League, before it loses its identity in the name of FA restructuring to become the Southern Combination Football League next season.

Gorings Mead, home of Horsham YMCA, is a ground I've visited a few times over the years, and there haven't been any noticeable alterations here since my last visit and so it remains a moderately attractive and spacious venue. The 36 page programme was impressive considering it was produced for cup finals - being a double issue for the Division Two cup final this afternoon. It was attractively designed in full colour and contained good information about the finalists, their routes to the final and league tables.

It is perhaps surprising that two mid table teams were contesting today's final, Newhaven finishing in seventh place in Sussex League Division One, and Arundel in tenth place. There was a fair if daylight between the two clubs though, Newhaven accumulating 64 points from their 38 games, 12 points more than Arundel. In the league meetings between the two side, the home side won 1-0 on both occasions. To reach today's final of a competition which has replaced the John O'Hara Cup this season in recognition of the legendary former League President who passed away in 2013, and is 
open to Sussex League Division One and selected Division Two teams, Newhaven have beaten Haywards Heath Town 3-1 at home, Dorking Wanderers on penalties after a 6-6 draw away, Lancing on penalties after a 2-2 draw away, and Chichester City 2-0 in the semi final. Arundel beat Rustington 2-1 at home, received a walkover against East Preston, beat Eastbourne Town 4-0 at home and Hailsham Town 4-2 in the semi finals.

On a warm, sunny morning, after Newhaven dominated the opening exchanges and carving out half chances, it was Arundel who first came closest to scoring with a fine left footed shot from outside of the area tipped onto the post by the keeper. That was a rare foray indeed by Arundel though, with Newhaven's much more direct style always looking more threatening, and on 36 minutes only a superb reflex save from the Arundel keeper kept the scores level, keeping out a fierce close range shot from Ryan Walton following a low cross across the box. Unfortunately for the keeper, the save was to count for little as Newhaven did take the lead within a minute, as the ball was played through the defence and Callum Connor took the ball around the keeper and tapped into an empty net. Arundel almost got back on level terms a couple of minutes before half time, when a clearance ricocheted off the Arundel striker Scott Tipper, but the ball went over the bar. In truth though, Newhaven certainly deserved their half time lead.

The second half started off in the same vein, and Newhaven had the first clear chance of the second half on the hour mark when a ball was looped into the box and was then hit first time goalwards, forcing another great save from the Arundel keeper. Again the reprieve was only temporary, as within a couple of minutes, Newhaven doubled their lead. A free kick into the box was guided home by the head of Ryan Knight. The destiny of the Cup seemed to be sealed two minutes later though, following good work around the edge of the area to create space for a shot on goal which was parried by the keeper, only for Walton to tap in at the far post. Arundel did give themselves a sniff of a chance of getting back into it on 70 minutes when Lewis Jenkins headed home a corner, and although they did have perhaps their best spell of the game, they never looked likely to pull of an unlikely comeback and Newhaven saw the game out to deservedly lift the cup on the pitch shortly after the final whistle, which was their first piece of silverware in senior football for 21 years.

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