It was a case of fourth time lucky for U14s manager Tony Massimo as his Amber side defeated title rivals Chichester City to win the Arun & Chichester League Cup with a display as warming as the mid-March sunshine that shone brightly over Worthing’s Woodside Road. Massimo had suffered cup final heartache on each of this last three occasions with the Hornets but there was to be no denying him this time, thanks to a brace of goals from Connor Collcutt and a Phillip Katraouzos header, as Horsham gained what they hope will be a psychological advantage over their nearest challengers for the league championship.
With the two sides just a point and a place apart at the top of Division A, a close and tense battle was anticipated on the 3G playing surface yet the Hornets might have taken a sensational lead after just twenty seconds when Sammy Henderson’s raking pass was collected by Joe Simpkin who showed his marker a clean pair of heels before crossing low to the far post where Zain Beg looked set to apply the finish, only to mishit his shot allowing the Chichester defence to clear. Chi’s first attack then caused problems for goalkeeper Will Scurr who, under little pressure, fumbled the ball and was grateful to Ben Embling for sparing his blushes by clearing off the line. The Yellows went in front two minutes later when a low corner by Simpkin fell nicely for Collcutt who rifled the ball into the net. Both sides were playing some decent football but it was almost ten minutes before either goalkeeper was tested again but, even then, Alfie Furneaux’s block took the sting out of Oliver Barry’s strike to give Scurr a straightforward save. Collcutt had the chance to double Horsham’s lead when the ball broke kindly for him inside the Chichester penalty area but Ethan Galea raced quickly off his line to save bravely at the striker’s feet. The impressive Sammy Henderson made a rare error when he was dispossessed by Barry but his opponent elected to take his shot early and succeeded only in scuffing it through to Scurr for a comfortable save.
Chichester showed no signs of crumbling after that early goal and the match was was developing into an even contest. Kye Hartt went close with a driven free-kick from distance that went through the middle of the penalty area, only to creep beyond the far post without anyone able to get a touch, and then a determined, battling, run by Collcutt in which he beat two defenders, saw him run out of room and unable to wrap his foot sufficiently enough round the ball to trouble the ‘keeper. Another Hartt free-kick brought the game’s next chance when, this time, he played the ball cleverly in to the edge of the ‘D’ for Ryan Harfield to spin his marker and send in a left-footed shot that was well saved by Scurr. The final action of the half came at the other end when, following a skirmish in the Chichester box, Embling thrashed the ball high over the top.
Having so nearly taken the lead in the opening moments of the first half, so history repeated itself at the start of the second, when another low ball into the box found Beg coming in at the far post but, with all the goal to aim for, he could only scoop the ball over the crossbar. It was a huge let-off for Chi but one on which they were able to build as Horsham made it 2-0 just five minutes after the restart. Leighton Read clipped a free-kick into the penalty area, the ball was headed into the air and helped on to Beg whose acrobatic volley could only be tipped on to the crossbar by Galea and Collcutt was on hand to follow-up, smashing the ball home from a yard out. Chi looked to hit back quickly and Lewis Thorne was denied a goal by a fine save by Scurr, who got down well to his right to turn the ball behind for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, the goalkeeper was able to claw a testing cross away from danger before getting behind a long-ranger from Daniel Hubble. It was an admirable response from the Chichester lads but they fell further behind when a high hanging corner from Henderson was met at the far post by Katraouzos who stopped low to squeeze his header over the line despite the best efforts of Galea.
Another set-piece, this time a free-kick from Read, saw Nico Massimo get his head to the ball but it lacked the power to beat the Chi goalkeeper while, at the other end, Chichester had a couple of chances to get themselves back in the game. First, some neat control on the chest by Owen Dawson gave him the chance to fire in a volley that wasn’t far off the mark and then some wonderful defending by Furneaux denied Joseph Masters a strike after being sent on his way by a good pass from midfield. With the apparent comfort of a three goal lead, Collcutt tried an audacious thirty-five yard effort that had Galea back-pedalling before it dropped onto the roof of the net but, from nearly going four goals down, Chi suddenly gave themselves a lifeline when Terriq Osman was sent clear to apply a fine first time finish, side-footing the ball beyond the advancing Scurr.
A fabulous jinking run by Horsham’s Phelan Jeffery drew warm applause when, picking the ball up inside his own half, he powered through the middle of the park, leaving a couple of opponents in his wake before picking the perfect pass for the hard-working Beg, but he was denied a well-deserved goal by another alert and brave piece of goalkeeping by Galea, Sadly an overreaction to the collision between Beg and the goalkeeper by Chi’s Harrison Hill saw him booked, substituted, and promptly sent to the dressing-room for abusing the fourth official. In his absence, Chichester twice went close to claiming a second goal in the few minutes that remained when Osman collected a Harfield pass only to put a tantalising cross onto the roof of the net and then, in stoppage time, Hartt was denied by Scurr from a free-kick.
There was to be no denying the Hornets, though, who took the cheers of their supporters to lift what they hope will be the first leg of a league and cup double.
Will Scurr, Nico Massimo, Sammy Henderson, Joe Simpkin, Alfie Furneaux, Max Morris, Zain Beg, Connor Collcutt, Phelan Jeffery, Leighton Read, Isaac Small, Josh Buttle, Ben Embling, Max Warren, Phillip Katraouzos
Ethan Galea, Oliver Herring, Harrison Hill, Henry Whittaker, Harrison Bullen, Kye Hartt, Joseph Masters, Ryan Harfield, Peter Hodgkins, Oliver Barry, Daniel Hubble, Owen Dawson, Terriq Osman, Lewis Thorne, Rory Pack