Manager Steve Eke gives his views and reports on Tuesday’s magnificent cup triumph…
Lewes FC’s Development Squad took the short trip to Lancing to play Worthing in the Sussex Intermediate Cup Final at the Sussex County FA HQ Culver Road on Tuesday as Underdogs with a capital “U”.
Worthing are deserved Champions of the Ryman U21 League South and beat us 6-1 at the Dripping Pan and 5-0 in the return game at Woodside Road so they started as hot favourites, so much so that when I asked a member of staff a few weeks back if the champagne was on ice he said to me “How are you going to beat them? They have put eleven goals past us, I hope you have a plan”
We arrived at Lancing with our plan that we had fine tuned at training – we intended to stop Worthing playing out from the back and to press them quickly all around the pitch, winning the ball and breaking forward as we knew we had good pace in the team. So we had a confidence and determination in the squad despite losing James Kemp and Harry Millar with injuries.
The game kicked off in perfect conditions and our boys settled very quickly having the majority of early possession, a couple of darting runs from Ian Robinson and a shot from distance by George Laughlin brought a response from Worthing; Nathan Stroomberg in goal cut out a cross with confidence and was off his line to deal with a through ball.
Jordan Badger and Matt Gunn in central defence were winning their challenges and were well protected by Jack Whitmore breaking up play in midfield. Jack Troak at left back made two excellent tackles as Worthing threatened and Leon Dramis, Vincent Follea with Laughlin and Whitmore were neat and tidy and industrious in midfield, but we weren’t getting the ball to Charlie Coppola who we know can be a match winner.
Then Jack Meeres found Charlie in space and he attacked the full back with pace and flashed a shot across the face of goal, a warning to Worthing and a wake up to us. Dramis attacked down the left put in a cross that Worthing defended but now we were starting to create more.
Stroomberg, whose distribution is excellent, then pinged a ball out to Meeres who, after a great first touch, passed to Coppola who had drifted inside. Charlie turned and ran at the defenders twisting one way then the other with the ball on the end of his foot, he was through the defence in a flash and shot unerringly into the far corner of Worthing’s net. 1-0 to Lewes on 40 minutes.
Our opponents looked unsettled now and we broke forward again with some good passing between Follea, Meeres, Laughlin and Coppola. The final pass found Robinson who attacked the space and forced a corner. Laughlin has been delivering good set plays all season and again drove the ball into the desired area, Badger and Gunn attacked the ball and Gunn’s header was blocked but he was quickest to react and smashed the rebound into the back of the net. 2-0 to Lewes on 45 minutes.
Half time confirmed the determination in the whole squad that we were going to win! We knew Worthing had to take chances and we could take advantage. As they sent bodies forward we broke with Dramis and Coppola stretching the defenders and Robinson a threat in behind. The decision making of the team was good with very few mistakes but then we were tested.
We had a chance for a third goal, Robinson and Whitmore won the ball and Dramis made a run through, Robbo’s pass was a little firm and the ‘keeper was off his line to snuff out the opportunity. From this Worthing attacked and gained a free kick which we couldn’t deal with and they scored at the back post. 2-1 Lewes on 72 minutes.
Game management isn’t easy for young players but we continued to play with calmness and prevented Worthing from creating any more serious chances. We gave away a few unnecessary free kicks which Badger, Gunn and Stroomberg dealt with. Follea, Whitmore and Laughlin contested every ball in midfield and we continued to pass positively, even getting Troak forward as Coppola and Dramis carried the ball deep into Worthing’s half.
Eduardo Aller our popular Spanish “international” came on for Coppola and slotted in seamlessly and we replaced Robbo with Lucas Tredrea. Lucas made a valuable contribution holding the ball up and keeping possession as did Gary Mbiriru when Meeres suffered cramp.
Finally the referee ended the game and we had won the Cup! Now the celebrations could begin, it was a proud moment to see Robbo collect the Cup for us. What made it even more special was we had beaten the Champions of our league and the best U21 team in the south east with a side which had seven players in the starting XI which were still eligible to play under 18s football.
Worthing were very sporting in defeat, the players and management offering their congratulations to us despite being disappointed and I need to say thanks to Jon Chalaye, the Worthing coach, who came into our dressing room to congratulate us.
Of course winning a cup is not just about the Final, a lot of hard work has gone into previous rounds. Thanks go to David Arnold and Barry Haffenden, particularly for your help at our Semi Final, Kev Brook, Barry Collins, Kev Miller, Darren, Ross and Codge, Alex Walsh and Jay Lovett and everyone else who has helped to win the Cup for the club.
Cup Finals are always disappointing for some, James Kemp and Adam Christian played in every round bar the Final, Ollie Stevenson only missed two games one being the Final. Harry Millar was injured and a mention for Iuean Strong who scored important goals in previous rounds including the Semi Final winner.
Thanks also to important members of the team who I know this means a lot to after a long season, physio Kev Mottley, Adam Wolecki and Louis Erangey all who have made a massive contribution.
So well done to Lewes FC for winning the trophy for the first time since 1962 but especially the players, it was you who held your nerve and won the Cup!
Finally I want to dedicate this win to Peter Hiscox who has been unwell recently. Peter was at the club when I made my first team debut in 1979 and is still giving his time to the Mighty Rooks. Good luck Pete.
Team: Stroomberg, Meeres (Mbiriviri), Troak, Gunn, Badger, Whitmore, Coppola (Aller), Laughlin, Follea, Robinson (Tredrea), Dramis, Subs not used: Stevenson, Christian.
Goals: Coppola 41, Gunn 45.
Caution: Whitmore 65.