Sunday, 17 May 2015

Lewes 0 v 5 Whitehawk

Saturday 16th May 2015
Sussex Senior Cup Final
American Express Community Stadium, Falmer
Admission: £12.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 2,585
Match Rating: 2

After a week and a half without any football, with a painful foot keeping me out of action last weekend and with my most local leagues having already finished for the season, today it was time for arguably the showpiece game of Sussex non-league football, held at Brighton & Hove Albion's impressive stadium.

A trip to the Amex is always a special occasion for players, coaches and supporters of the two non league clubs who reach the final (albeit that some fans bemoan the atmosphere and environment in a very sparsely populated football league stadium, complete with its relatively exorbitant pricing of refreshments, ticket booking fees and the like, and the stewarding), and an added bonus of today's final was that it featured the two clubs located within just a few miles of the Amex. There was little doubt that Whitehawk would be the favourites today, not least when considering league status, with Whitehawk only losing out to promotion to the Conference National in the playoff final after extra time at Boreham Wood, whilst Lewes' survival in the league below, the Isthmian Premier Division, was only confirmed on the final day of the season. The timing of today's fixture would also appear to have favoured Whitehawk, who played their play-off final last Saturday, whilst Lewes have not been in competitive action for three weeks. To reach today's final, Lewes beat Brighton and Hove Albion's Development Squad 2-1 after extra time at home, Horsham YMCA 0-1 away, Eastbourne Borough 2-1 at home after extra time, and then Loxwood 3-0 in the semi final on neutral territory. Whitehawk beat Storrington 0-6 away, Bognor Regis Town 2-0 at home, a Crawley Town XI 6-1 at home, and finally Burgess Hill Town 2-1 in the semi final.

As happily seems to be the case with Sussex FA matches these days, the programme was very good, 40 glossy, full colour pages, with all of the necessary stats and background info to the match, both teams and the history of the competition, as well as some interesting articles to read. A copy of the Sussex Football magazine was also given away free with each programme, a monthly publication in a programme size format that looks at each Sussex club from the Conference South to the Sussex League.

On a warm, sunny afternoon, it became clear from the early stages that Whitehawk would dominate this game and it felt only a matter of time until they took the lead, the only surprise that it took until just before the half hour mark to open the scoring. Former Brighton striker Jake Robinson saw his powerful goalbound header parried by the keeper, and Danny Mills tucked the rebound into the net. Arguably the deciding goal came on 35 minutes and was rather controversial. To compound the award of a free kick near the corner flag which looked extremely generous, the Whitehawk players were allowed to take the kick from about 10 yards away in a more favourable position, and Jordan Rose headed in the whipped in free kick. It really was game over on 39 minutes when, following some head tennis deep inside the Lewes area, and a header coming back off the underside of the bar, eventually former Charlton player Osei Sankofa headed the ball home. Lewes had  the best chance to get on the scoresheet just before half time, when their liveliest player on the day, Nicky Wheeler, forced a good save from this powerful cross shot.

Realistically, the game was won by half time, thanks to some glorious football played by Whitehawk and the gulf between the two sides really was vast. Disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, the pace and intensity of the game dropped in the second half, although the gulf was still very much in evidence. Robinson had a close range header excellently saved by the keeper two minutes after the break, but their fourth goal did not arrive until the 68th minute. Some incisive goalbound passing ended with Scott Neilson slotting the ball past the keeper. Whitehawk added their fifth shortly after having a shot come back off the woodwork, when yet more slick passing ended with Sam Deering running onto the ball and placing the ball past the keeper low into the far corner.

So, although this proved to be a disappointingly one-sided final, all credit to Whitehawk who played some superb football and were in total control of the game from start to finish. As for Lewes, apart from the occasional good move, their performance did have the look of a team who had not played competitively for several weeks, and may be disappointed that they did not put up a bit more of a fight and allowed Whitehawk to play so well.

Video highlights of this game can be found here

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