Monday 2nd December
Sussex U23s Challenge Cup quarter-final
The Camping World Community Stadium, Horsham
Horsham 6 Eastbourne Town 4 (aet)

Horsham’s Development Squad gave themselves a great early Christmas present by making it through to the semi-finals of the Sussex U23s Challenge Cup, prevailing in a ten goal thriller against Eastbourne Town last night. The game had a bit of everything; thrills, spills, red cards, extra-time and, most of all, goals. Ten of them to be exact, and many of them were not just goals, they were spectacular ones!

There was no early indication of the goal feast that was to follow as the game opened quietly with the Hornets set up with a narrow compact four in midfield and deploying Archie Goddard and Harry Brooker in a two-pronged attack. This allowed them a good measure of control, but with both sides guilty of over hitting their long forward passes, there was little in the way of a goal threat from either side. It was a little against the run of play when the visitors opened the scoring just inside 20 minutes, Tyler Scrafton – one of five Town players on show with first team experience this season – converting a cross from the right. But there was an instant reply from the Hornets with goal machine Goddard finishing calmly to make it 1-1.

With Horsham enjoying the better possession, they took the lead in the 27th minute when Brooker chased down a ball into the left channel and managed to cross into the middle where Harry Law was lurking, ready to curl in a delightful strike from 20 yards into the top left hand corner. In the aftermath of the goal, there was commotion on the touchline as an Eastbourne official confronted the linesman and was promptly dismissed by the referee. With the lively George Cook, another with first team experience, starting to find lots of room on the left wing the Eastbourne side were starting to look more dangerous and his long run, after dispossessing a Horsham midfield player, ended with a shot just wide of the post.

H/T Horsham 2 Eastbourne Town 1

With the Horsham attack not causing too many problems for the Town in the first half, manager Mark Hawthorne made a change in introducing Torin Paget for Brooker and using him in support of Goddard rather than in his usual wing position. Eastbourne started the second period brightly with Scrafton getting ahead of the Horsham defence but, fortunately, his shot was deflected for a corner. Although enjoying a period of sustained possession, the Town were stunned by a piece of magic from Goddard. Sam Karl put him on the ball and, from 25 yards out on the right hand side of the box, he teed himself up onto his left foot and curled a wonderful angled shot that dipped into the top left hand corner of the goal that gave visiting ‘keeper Karl James no chance.

Just after that, Karl drilled a right foot shot which James held and Goddard warmed his hands again with another effort. But this young Eastbourne side were right back in the contest when George Cooke hit a screamer from 20 yards to reduce the deficit and got his second, minutes later, with another great strike which ‘keeper Seb Jacobides got his hand to but could not stop as the ball flew into the net. In between the two goals, Hawthorne had introduced a fresh pair of legs with Lewis Kelly coming on for Will Gordon.

With it looking like anyone’s game, the pendulum swung once more Horsham’s way when the Town were reduced to ten men, Harry Colbran getting a straight red card for a two-footed challenge which referee Daniel Jeffery adjudged to be out of control. The battling Town regrouped and with Horsham unable to make the extra man count the referee blew for full-time and the commencement of 30 minutes extra time.

With the game inevitably becoming stretched, there were chances at both ends. Cooke got the better of Sam Gallagher and forced Jacobides into a smart save low down and, shortly after, Brad Pitchard saw the Horsham ‘keeper off his line and tried a lob from distance that the back-pedalling Jacobides managed to flick the ball over for a corner. Horsham went back in front again when Paget headed in from a corner from the left wing to go into the final 15 minutes 4-3 ahead.

But the battling young Town side were not beaten yet and once more equalised and, once again, it was the outstanding Cooke that did the damage with a great strike from distance, bending the ball into the top right hand corner for 4-4 and his hat-trick. But Goddard doesn’t like to be outgunned by anyone and, with eight minutes left and showing great determination, he had the legs to outpace the Eastbourne defence to latch onto the ball and pick his spot with that precise instrument that is his left foot.

With just minutes left on the clock, Kieran Britland was hemmed in by the corner flag in an attempt to run down time but he managed to squirm free and drive a fierce cross that Karl, caught by surprise, somehow missed from five yards. It was left to Goddard to seal the victory, dispossessing a tired defender before slotting past James for his fourth goal and Horsham’s sixth to make the final score Horsham 6 Eastbourne Town 4 . Final result 6-4 to Horsham .

The Hornets now progress to the semi-finals where they will meet the winners of Loxwood v Hassocks, away, on January 10th.

Team : Seb Jacobides, Sam Gallagher, Kieran Britland, Alex Parsons (C), Joel Mann, Dan Webster, Harry Law, Will Gordon, Archie Goddard, Sam Karl, Harry Brooker
Subs: Lewis Kelly, Torin Paget, Lewis Blaney (gk)

Report by Darryl Jacobs

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