On Thursday evening Newhaven Ladies will take part in their first ever final – in their first season as a team – as they face Burgess Hill Town Ladies in the Sussex Women’s Challenge Trophy final.
The Dockers are enjoying an incredible first year as a side and have so far won every single game they have played – a string of 15 consecutive victories since they first kicked a competitive ball back in September.
But they know tests may not come tougher than on Thursday night, as they face a side from a higher division in a showpiece event at Sussex County FA headquarters in Lancing.
Newhaven have been relentless in attack throughout the campaign, scoring a massive 104 goals, and joint-manager Andy Cook praised the hard work of his side ahead of the final.
“Everyone is really looking forward to the cup final,” said Cook. “It’s our first season and so far it’s been fantastic and we could not have asked for things to have gone any better.
“The ladies have been brilliant; winning every game so far, scoring loads of goals and playing some really entertaining football. Even in training they work ever so hard and are willing to learn and improve all the time.
“There is a real buzz about the squad and after numerous postponements just recently the Ladies are really eager to get out there on Thursday and put on a performance.
“It has been really difficult with the weather just recently and even trying to get friendly matches on has been hard work and in the end not possible. But everyone has been ticking over in training and will be ready to go Thursday night on a 3G pitch which will really suit our style of quick, high pressing football.
“Having said this we expect a tough game from Burgess Hill and we have watched them several times this season so know we are in for a hard game. Hopefully there will be a big crowd and everyone can enjoy the night and fingers crossed we can bring some silverware back to the club.”
Newhaven’s route to the final started with a 6-0 victory at divisional rivals Crawley Wasps in round one, before an entertaining, hard-fought 2-1 win at title rivals Saltdean United followed in the second round.
The semi-final saw the Dockers host Worthing Town, another team from the same division, and they booked their place in the final with a convincing 9-0 win.
Burgess Hill, meanwhile, have only had to tackle two rounds to reach the final. The quarter-final saw them travel to Pagham, where they overcame their hosts 5-3 to reach the last four, where they needed extra-time to eventually see off Montpelier Villa 3-2.
Joint-manager Alex Ladd was also full of praise for his squad, saying the final is reward for their commitment.
“What an achievement Thursday night represents for our ladies team,” said Ladd. “To make it to the final of such a well respected cup is fantastic.”
“It is a just reward for the hard work and commitment they have put in over the last year. To think they have only been playing as a team for for one season is remarkable.
“We are very fortunate to have a great group of players that have grown together and become a formidable squad. The style of football they have developed is great to watch, hard working, creative and clinical. You can see the passion they play with and how they encourage one and other on and off the pitch.
“I am so proud to be part of their development and I hope that they play the football they are capable of on Thursday night and enjoy the occasion.”
At the heart of the Newhaven side is midfielder and captain Ellie Coade [pictured above, right], who expressed her pride at her team’s achievements and hailed the impact of the joint-managers.
“As captain of the ladies team I couldn’t be more proud to lead this incredible team into our first cup final in our first ever competitive season together,” said Coade.
“From starting off as two completely separate teams, who didn’t even know each other at the beginning of the season, to combine and grow into the team we are now and reach this cup final is an unbeatable feeling. Every single player has worked so hard and shown so much commitment to the team it really is unreal.
“This season the ladies have continued to surprise me by taking each game in their stride and produce fantastic football every game, without fault, and it really shows in our results, especially when we scored our 100th goal in the cup semi-final.
“Although the big scoring games are fun and we still play incredible football, the pinnacle moment for me this season was our quarter-final against Saltdean, where I believe we truly came together as an unstoppable team.
“I have never seen so much heart, determination and strength from the ladies that, in our toughest game yet, we came out on top 2-1. These are the games I love and why I play the sport.
“The most important part of reaching this cup final involves two main people and that is Andy and Alex. I have never met two more committed managers in all the years I have played football and we as a team want to thank them so much.
“The amount of time and effort they put into the organisation of training shows the moment we step out onto that pitch. They are there in the rain, cold and in the snow and make training challenging yet so enjoyable and that really shows in the style of our game. We really just want to thank them so much and we will try to do them so proud in this final.
“We are very much looking forward to playing Burgess Hill Ladies in this cup final. They have had a good season so far in the South East Counties West Division and it will be a tough, physical test for us against a team we have never played before and I cannot wait to see how the ladies respond to this challenge.
“Whatever the outcome I will be proud of the ladies and what we have achieved so far this season and I really cannot wait to step out onto that pitch with them and give it all we’ve got.”
The match takes place at Sussex County FA headquarters, Culver Road, Lancing on Thursday 8th March and will kick off at 7.15pm.