A talented football team containing players from across the locality was narrowly beaten in the final of a national competition.
The South East Sussex district was edged out 2-1 by Chester le Street, Washington & Derwentside in the English Schools’ FA Boys’ Under 13 PlayStation Inter Association Trophy final at Stoke City FC’s bet365 Stadium last Friday.
John Lovell, one of the team’s coaches along with Jim Colston, said: “It was a fantastic experience for them (the players), which they won’t forget.
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“Obviously it would’ve better had we won it, but for little South East Sussex to make the final of a national competition was incredible really.
“We’ve such a great group of boys and the parents have been absolutely outstanding with their support throughout, right down to getting a sponsor for the warm-up tops.”
Chester le Street fielded a very good side, featuring several Newcastle United academy boys, and South East Sussex were under the cosh for the first 10 minutes.
The opposition’s big forward caused all sorts of problems early on, but a battling South East Sussex side dealt with him well and kept themselves in the game.
There weren’t many chances for either team, but Chester le Street took a half time lead with a really good strike from distance. Rohan Sharma had a great strike well saved at the other end.
Chester le Street doubled their advantage with a goal which had a suspicion of offside about it before South East Sussex pulled one back in the last minute. Jaydon Fuller was brought down having turned his marker and buried the resulting penalty into the top corner.
South East Sussex, who had never previously got to a national final, won six matches just to reach the final of a competition entered by 89 teams.
A 3-2 first round win at home to Brighton & Hove was followed by a 3-2 second round victory away to Gosport & Fareham, 7-0 third round success away to West Kent, 3-0 fourth round triumph away to Hillingdon, 4-1 quarter-final win away to Aldershot & Farnborough and a splendid 3-2 extra-time victory at home to a formidable Croydon side in the semi-finals.
The South East Sussex squad was made up of Archie McGonigle, Will De Wilde, Fuller, Jacob Watson and Rohan Sharma (all Claremont Prep), Jenson Davies and Leo Groombridge (both Willingdon Community College), George Pegman and Harry Jefferys (both St Leonards Academy), Franz Cuison and Dominic Corbin (both St Richard’s Catholic College), Calum Pollitt (Cavendish School), Liam Ridgers (Rye College), Daniel Harvey (Robertsbridge Community College) and Frankie Manning (The Hastings Academy).
The players, who were selected by trial having being put forward by their schools, come from all over the district and do not train together.
The South East Sussex Association is made up of secondary schools along the coastal strip of East Sussex, from Rye through to Eastbourne, including Hastings and Bexhill.
It provides local school players the opportunity to play competitive football against other representative district teams. It also runs district leagues and cup competitions for all member schools.
The district runs teams from the under-12 to under-16 age groups. The under-13 and under-15 sides play in English Schools’ FA national competitions, and those in the under-12, under-14 and under-16 age groups compete in South of England competitions.
Players who have previously represented South East Sussex SFA in the competition include West Bromwich Albion star Gareth Barry and AFC Bournemouth ace Steve Cook.
On behalf of the SE Sussex Schools’ FA, Lovell wished to thank Bishop & Levett Builders for supplying the boys with a full set of warm-up tops for the final.