Thursday saw the U18s crowned champions of Sussex as they dramatically claimed
the Sussex Bluefin Dennis Probee trophy with a penalty shoot-out win against
this season’s first trophy secured, they seek even more silverware this coming
week – more of that in a moment.
final at Culver Road promised to be a cracker and didn’t disappoint. The
young Rooks had the better of the opening exchanges and were well worth their
lead after only nine minutes. George McCarthy’s high free-kick into the box was
fumbled by Rudy Stilgoe in the Hawks’ goal and centre back Alfie Headland was
instinctively on hand to tap home.
side continued to probe for the remainder of the half, with Dane Tasker in the
Rooks goal being the busier of the two keepers. The second half started with a
Josh Magrath effort which went just inches wide, although the East Brighton
youngsters were asking Tasker questions of their own, but the Rooks number one
was equal to the challenge. Ricky Aguiar and McCarthy both had volleys go close
to extending the lead but the pressure continued to build at the other end.
equaliser in the second minute of injury time was tough for the Rooks to take
but no less than the Hawks deserved for a spirited second-half performance. A
long throw into the box was smashed home by James Waters to send the tie into
extra time. There were a lot of tired legs by now, which was of no surprise
considering the effort both sides had put into this superb game of football.
But it was Whitehawk who took the lead for the first time in the match, when
former Rook Joel Daly cooly slotted home in the 101st minute.
was end-to-end stuff now and both sides were close to scoring more, Magrath in
particular had his head in his hands after his close range header skimmed the
top of the crossbar. The unbelievable endeavour that the Rooks have shown all
season came through and in the 112th minute
Alfie Headland steered a beautifully hit shot, in off the post, to grab his
brace and send the game to penalties.
then to spot kicks…skipper George McCarthy comfortably slotted home the first penalty, Broughton
scored for the Hawks, Jack Hutchinson had his kick excellently saved, which was
hard to take for the 15-year-old forward who’d put in an excellent shift as
substitute on the night. Daly scored, Aguiar scored, then it was time for
Tasker to pull off a couple of brilliant saves between a successful Headland
kick. That left the match-winning kick to Leone Gravata, who’d had a superb match at right-back. He dispatched his spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner! Cue the celebration
for the young Rook who secured the trophy for the first time since 2013 and for
only the fifth time in the club’s history. Credit to both teams for a
tremendous roller coaster of a match and a superb advert for youth football.
Now League Cup champions too?
week’s triumph was only the first part of a cup double as this
Thursday (19th April), the Sussex champs head to Whyteleafe FC to take on
Woking U18s in the Isthmian Youth League Cup final. This again will be a tough
encounter against a side that are very much on course to secure their league
title. The Rooks defence will need to keep a particular close eye on top
scorers Ross Murdoch and Will Jacob who have 11 and 8 league goals
Youth team’s record in this competition over the years has been mixed, with only
a solitary win to their name, way back in 1992, when the Rooks beat Clapton in
the final. A semi-final was reached in 2015 with Brentwood Town denying Lewes a
place in the final on penalties three seasons ago.
season’s route to the final started back with a 2-0 win at South Park back in
November and continued with wins against Eastbourne Borough 2-2 (3-2 on pens),
Wealdstone 1-0 and a 2-1 victory over
Camberley Town in the semi-final at the Dripping Pan last month. All seven goals in this season’s competition
have been by different scorers. In fact, all season the goals have been spread throughout the squad with skipper George
McCarthy leading the scoring charts with 14 goals from midfield, winger
Dylan Gifford weighing in with 13, as well as impressive returns from centre
half Alfie Headland (11) and midfielder Ricky Aguiar (10). After Headland’s two strikes against
Whitehawk, the U18s are just a single goal away from reaching a century of
goals this season.
It should be another cracking showpiece
final so please come along to support your future Rooks sponsored by ICS
Roofing. Kick-off is at 7.30pm at Whyteleafe FC, while admission is £5 for adults, £3 for concessions and
children under 16 are £1.