Saltdean United Ladies 2-3 Newhaven Ladies (HT 0-2)
Newhaven Ladies secured the ‘Treble’ on Friday Night at Culver Road, Lancing when they beat Saltdean for a fourth time this season to win the League Cup Final.
This adds to the League title and Sussex Women’s Challenge Trophy for an incredible season and maintains their 100% winning record.
Goals from Lauren Smith, Ellie Coade and an own goal just about got the Dockers over the line in what turned out to be a pulsating cup final.
Newhaven were on the front foot from kick off and pressed high up the pitch winning the ball in dangerous areas just like the league game on the Sunday before. An early enforced change for Saltdean saw them reshuffle their pack as Naomi Robinson pulled up injured.
The first chance came for Newhaven as Smith crossed from the left for Chloe Winchester but she just couldn’t make contact in the penalty area. Ellie Coade then played Georgia Ungoed in and her shot was saved by Katie Burr.
Saltdean then moved the ball well up the pitch and worked a chance which was well saved by Hannah Paul diving to her right.
Smith then had the best chance of the game so far when she found herself clear on the left but shot well over from the edge of the box.
Saltdean were intent on playing out from the back but the Dockers were quick to close this down and the opening goal of the match came from Winchester shutting the full back down and winning the ball then playing Smith through on the left wing and her shot from wide sailed over the keeper and into the opposite far corner to give the Dockers a deserved lead (0-1).
The Dockers kept the pressure on with a shot just wide by Winchester and header from a corner by Coade which was well saved.
But Saltdean absorbed the attacks and then started to creep back into the game forcing Paul into a couple of fine saves to preserve the lead.
With Smith enjoying lots of possession on the left further chances kept coming for Newhaven and after Smith won the ball from the full back her excellent cross was met by the right foot of Winchester but the ball was steered agonisingly wide of the post. Saltdean went back up the other end and forced a corner which was met by a free header just over the crossbar.
Paige Ripley started to find a bit more space in the middle and released the run of Lucy Collinson but the keeper just got to the ball first and stop a certain chance. Collinson then returned the compliment with a looping ball over the top to Ripley which reached the box and what looked like a handball from the covering Saltdean defender went unpunished.
However, it was only moments later that the lead was extended when Winchester bravely battled with the Saltdean defender and came out the stronger finding space on the right side of the box and her cross was met by the Saltdean defender attempting to clear but the ball was steered into the back of the net to make it 0-2 just before half time.
It was an excellent first half with Newhaven defending superbly as the back four of Cook, Godden, Bashford-Robertson and Harker giving very little away and the midfield of Coade, Collinson and Ripley slowly beginning to control the game.
The second half kicked off as the rain began to get harder but this didn’t deter the Dockers and they immediately went on the attack forcing an early corner which Ungoed swung in and there was Coade to meet it on the edge of the six yard box and into the back of the net for a set piece goal straight from the training ground (0-3).
Coade then turned provider for Collinson who timed her run perfectly and found herself in on goal but her final shot was saved by Burr to her left. A fine ball over the top by Cook then released Winchester but strong defending prevented another chance.
With an hour gone Saltdean had to begin to commit players forward and Hannah Paul was soon to become the busier of the two keepers. First she held on well from a dangerous corner then made a great save to her right to keep the score at 0-3.
With the pressure mounting from Saltdean a throughball got the striker in but Paul was quick off her line and got what looked like a great touch on the ball but the referee thought otherwise and pointed to the spot. However, the resulting penalty was blazed over the bar with fifteen minutes to go.
It looked like that was Saltdean’s chance gone but they kept going and won another contentious decision wide on the right when a foul was awarded. The resulting deep free kick from Ellie Smith was high and accurate and nestled in the far corner to make it 1-3.
Newhaven then had a chance to kill the game when Winchester found herself through on goal but her shot was well saved when it looked likely she would score. Tawny Barden who had replaced Ripley then broke down the right and sent in a great cross which fizzed across the six yard box but nobody was there to apply the finishing touch.
With only minutes remaining Saltdean were now well on the front foot and forced a series of corners which were headed away by Godden and Collinson but then a mad scramble in the Newhaven penalty area saw the ball turned in by Charlotte Young to set up a grandstand finish (2-3).
Saltdean again pushed and pushed and with seconds left the striker found herself in on goal but a fine covering tackle by Chelsea Cook just got there first and turn the ball away for a corner and into the 6th minute of added time.
The corner was swung over dangerously but was headed away by Collinson and as Smith broke clear with the keeper up for the corner the final whistle sounded and was met by great relief by the Newhaven players and supporters and jubilation at securing the treble in a fantastic match.
Captain Ellie Coade lifted the League Cup and the League Trophy after the match and the celebrations began.
Joint-Manager Andy Cook reflected on the match and the achievement: “It was a really good game between two excellent sides and a great advert for women’s football in Sussex,” said Cook.
“The standard was really good and it has been all season between Saltdean and Newhaven but again we just had enough to win the game and that comes from the amazing team spirit this group have. Yes we have the quality and we are a very good side but it’s the togetherness these players have created as the season has progressed which has taken them to a new level.
“Their performances just never dip and even when they are struggling with injury and fatigue they just keep going as they are so desperate to win every game. They have been absolutely incredible. It has been an amazing achievement to win all three trophies and win every game so far this season with only one league game to play.
“A thoroughly enjoyable first season working with these ladies and they have made mine and Alex’s job so much easier. Well done to everyone including those who weren’t in the squad tonight. Everybody has played their part and it has been a superb effort all round.”
A relieved Alex Ladd (joint-manager) also congratulated the ladies: “Friday night saw a huge challenge for us all; the ladies and the coaching staff,” said Ladd.
“Whilst we all seemed excited, there was a definite undercurrent of tension. We spoke as ever about pressing and playing with an intensity, a desire to be first to the ball and win the individual battles. We knew it was going to be tough, but the knowledge of being treble champions seemed to fire us up.
“In the first half we found it hard to get on the ball at times as Saltdean played some good passing football but that desire that we spoke about earned us two goals. Lucy’s persistence led to Lauren being put through and the finish was quality. Chloe showed her ‘win at all costs’ attitude to steal the ball high up the pitch and force an error for the second.
“Second half saw us start brilliantly with Ellie scoring from a set piece which was great to see. 3-0 and we looked comfortable. Saltdean had other ideas though. As we started to tire, they pounced and it made for a gripping end to the game. Fair play to Tiff and his players, they played some quality football.
“However, defensively we were solid for most of the game and threw ourselves into challenges when needed towards the end of the match. I think our desire and passion won it for us in the end.
“To achieve the success we have, ultimately winning the treble, is without doubt far more than I could ever have expected from our ladies. I have never met a group of individuals who in the face of adversity find another gear time and time again.
“How they do it, I just don’t know. I hope they know just how much Andy and I have relished every moment of this season and cannot wait for the presentation night and the start of the summer conditioning sessions.”
Newhaven: Hannah Paul, Chelsea Cook, Jade Harker, Ellie Coade (c), Jas Godden, Paige Bashford-Robertson (Natalie Ring) (Steph Harrison), Georgia Ungoed (Tawny Barden), Lucy Collinson, Chloe Winchester, Paige Ripley (Paige Fowler), Lauren Smith. Unused sub: Ellie O’Brien.