Horsham U11s players, parents, and supporters travelled to Chichester on Sunday for the final match in the Presidents League Cup, the winner taking third place in the competition. Originally fixtured as a home match for Horsham, the away journey delivered a half-decent pitch given the previous week’s weather where two good, evenly-matched sides could play football. In manager Sam’s absence, Matt stood in as acting coach ably supported by Leighton Webb. This last coaching pairing produced a nail biting extra-time/penalty shoot-out for the Autumn Cup Final where the U11s cruelly lost on sudden death. It was written in the stars to happen again…

The game started with both teams full of confidence. Horsham certainly made the most of the opening minutes with Chichester looking somewhat cagey. Charlie, Alfie and Callum were seeing a lot of the ball in midfield and running the early part of the game but just as Horsham seem to hit their stride, Chichester opened the scoring. Most of their attacking play was via the left wing and Callum and Jack McM were having to make anticipated moves to prevent play progressing. The game was becoming increasingly physical from both sides. Dan and Dylan came on part way through the first half with Dan promptly having to leave the field from a crunching tackle. The referee had a job to contain the battle and many free-kicks and words resulted. Both Harry and Jack Y had chances to level before the close of the half but the teams entered the break with the score 1 – 0 to Chichester.

The second half battle commenced with a flurry of goals from both sides. Horsham equalised through Callum’s strength and determination, combining with Charlie. Callum’s initial powerful shot was parried by the ‘keeper but he got another attempt and made no mistake, shooting instinctively on the half volley. Horsham then took the lead through the game’s best goal from Harrison. It resulted from yet another foul on Jack McM, just inside the opposition’s half. Harrison has a reputation of scoring from this distance via a dead ball and his powerful and looping shot cleared the wall, and the ‘keeper, to drop in the back of the net. The game then ebbed back and forth between both sides. Chichester scored an equaliser to make it 2-2 with ten minutes of normal time to go but then Dan bravely made it back on to the pitch and found himself in the right place to tap in Horsham’s third. The goal was made by Dylan and assisted by Charlie, leaving nothing but a tap from Dan to see it home to make it 2-3 to Horsham. But, just when the game looked won, Chichester scored an equaliser to make it 3-3 to push the game to extra-time.

Horsham took the lead again, early in the first period of extra time, through a somewhat fortunate goal from Dan. Will attacked from the right hand side and squared the ball to Dan, centrally just inside the box, where he scuffed the shot under pressure from the defence. The ‘keeper, anticipating a better connection, dived to the left as the ball spun wickedly and bounced right over him in to the goal. Horsham were ten minutes away from the win but Chichester were awarded a penalty with two minutes to go. I don’t think many Horsham fans could see the infringement but Chichester were not complaining. The home side equalised from the spot although Zac nearly saved it, getting one hand to the ball and only the power of the shot saving the striker.

And so resulted another penalty shoot-out for Matt and Leighton to endure. This time the hero was Zac in goal, saving three of the five spot-kicks. All the lads from both sides, and the goalkeepers, were brave to step up when many couldn’t even watch.

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