As we begin the countdown to Tuesday’s Sussex U23 Challenge Cup Final, Mark Wells speaks to Hornets’ boss Mark Hawthorne to get his thoughts on his side’s clash with Langney Wanderers at the Sussex FA’s Lancing headquarters.

MW: “Mark, first of all congratulations on making it through to the final in your first season. You must be proud of the progress the team is making.”

MH: “Thanks Mark, yes I am. We’ve done well in the league so far but this is the cherry on the cake, if you like, on what has been a very enjoyable first season.”

MW: “Come the final, it will be three weeks since beating Loxwood in the semi, during which time you’ve played just once. How has that affected your preparations for Tuesday’s game?”

MH: “If anything it has actually helped us as it’s given us a few more sessions to prepare. Obviously there’s been less chance of players picking up injuries and they should potentially be fresher, but it’s not been that big a break really. We had a tough game against Hastings in that time which helped to keep the boys sharp so we’re in good shape.”

MW: “Langney haven’t played at all in that time so I guess it’s made it difficult to find out much about them?”

MH: “No, we’ve not been able to have a look at them but I’m not sure just how much we would have learned as there is a possibility they might put a couple of first teamers in for the final, which they’re perfectly entitled to do, so we’ve just had to make sure we concentrate on ourselves. We tend to plan our system regardless of the opposition to get the best out of our own players and to try and get that cohesiveness that all good teams do. We also like to treat every match as ‘just another game’ and although this one is a bit special, we’ll approach it the same way as all the others.”

MW: “You mention that Langney may bring in a few first teamers, are you tempted to ask Dom for a couple of players yourself?”

MH: “We couldn’t even if we wanted to as they would had to have played a minimum of three games for the U23s this season and the most any of them have played is two. To be honest, though, it would go against what we’re trying to do at the club. We’re all about helping the players progress so it wouldn’t be right to leave out some of those who have got us through to the final, just to possibly give us a better chance of winning.”

MW: “Our run to the final has certainly been an entertaining one, with plenty of goals and some close contests!”

MH: “Other than the first round against Arundel, they’ve all been very close but that’s what we want out of games. Did we learn anything from beating Arundel 8-0? Possibly, but we got a lot more out of the ones where we were taken to extra-time. You get to see the psychology and the mentality of the boys when they’re playing on tired legs and having to put in that extra shift when things aren’t going your way.”

MW: “Do you think playing on Lancing’s 3G pitch will give Horsham an advantage?”

MH: “No I don’t think so as I believe Langney play on Eastbourne Borough’s pitch, which is also 3G, so it should suit both teams. It should also make for a better game of football, especially with the way the weather is at the moment. The ball won’t get stuck in the mud, you won’t get puddles all over the pitch. I just hope the wind has died down by then!”

MW: “We’ve already heard that there won’t be any first teamers in the squad but how about everyone else? Have we got any absentees?”

MH: “A couple of lads have moved on and the same three game minimum rule applies to everyone, not just the first team players, so there are a couple of boys we’ve brought in recently who won’t be eligible but otherwise we’ve got a fully fit squad. We can have up to five subs in the final so we’ll be taking sixteen down to Lancing and hopefully it’ll be a good game. There will be a bit more pressure on the boys, purely because it’s a final and hopefully there should be a few more spectators, but it’s all part of their development, win, lose or draw.”

Shaun Scott’s in-depth preview of Tuesday’s night’s final will be published on Monday.


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