Newhaven U18s secured a 4-2 win at Peacehaven on Sunday 24th and with it, were crowned Southern Combination Football League U18 East Division Champions.
The opening period of the game didn’t go to plan for the young Dockers who found themselves two nil down after twenty minutes. The home side were pumped up and seemed determined to not allow Newhaven to win the title on their patch.
Once the game settled down though, Newhaven took control and it was substitute Toby Potter-Drake, on for the injured Fraser Cox, who halved the deficit.
The visitors had a few half chances heading into the break, but couldn’t draw level and went in 2-1 behind.
It wasn’t to last too long though, Henry Carey beat the Peacehaven offside trap and finished neatly under the onrushing goalkeeper after just two minutes of the second half.
Newhaven were enjoying the lions share of possession, but Peacehaven were defending well and limiting the chances, that was, until the 70th minute.
Marley Ambler looked to be being forced wide, but he checked back onto his right foot and drove a shot bottom corner, beyond the dive of the ‘keeper to give Newhaven the lead, and complete a superb turnaround in the scoreline.
The game, and the title, was confirmed in the final minute of normal time as Aaron Winser’s corner flew straight into the back of the net.
Newhaven were made to wait though, with the referee playing eight minutes of injury time, but they saw it out to start celebrations as their points tally reached an insurmountable 31.
Joint-manager Lee Robinson joked about the team’s achievements, but praised the team’s form since the turn of the year.
“If someone had told me back in August – when we were struggling for players and having to cancel friendlies – that we would have the league won with two games to spare and be in a cup final, I would probably have laughed at them.
“However, since our only league defeat of the season – at home against AFC Varndeanians just before Christmas – we have won eight out of eight in all competitions and beaten some good sides along the way.
“Some home truths were given to the lads following that defeat, but they have responded in the best way possible and thoroughly deserve to have their name on the trophy.
“It hasn’t been an easy season by any means and we’ve had a few problems and difficulties at certain times, but that makes it that much sweeter from a coaching point of view.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to Kieran, Ben and Brian, who make getting up early on a Sunday morning every week enjoyable and who have all played a big part in getting this very talented team over the line. Thank you also to the family and friends of the players, many of whom have been to every game this season.
“The aim now is to finish the league season as strong as possible and head in to the League Cup final with winning momentum behind us. And there’s also a chance of another piece of silverware with the Champion of Champions playoff to come, so there is plenty still to play for and this season is far from over.
“For now, however, we can enjoy the feeling of a league win and refocus on the next game when it comes around.”
Fellow joint manager Kieran Ridley echoed Robinson’s thoughts, and praised the young Dockers for their dedication.
“This group is a committed bunch, all season we’ve had really good numbers at training and it’s culminated in a league title triumph a place in the league cup final.
“It was the kind of game that completely summed up our season, a few bumps early on, getting to grips with things and then showing a bit of quality to find a way to win.
“We still have a lot to play for this season, AFC Varndeanians beat us in the league so they’ll fancy their chances, but we will go into that final full of confidence. We’ve also got Peacehaven and Eastbourne Town to play, and we’ve been drawn straight into the play off final so the season’s not over just yet.”
The SCFL U18 Champion of Champions play-off was drawn at the weekend and Newhaven were drawn straight into the final and will face either Haywards Heath Town or the West division champions, who are yet to be confirmed.
Follow the team to the end of season:
Sunday 31st March – Newhaven v Peacehaven – 11am @ The Trafalgar Ground
Sunday 7th April – AFC Varndeanians v Newhaven – 11am @ Hassocks FC
Sunday 14th April – Newhaven v Eastbourne Town – 11am @ The Trafalgar Ground
Sunday 5th May – Newhaven v West or Central Champions – 11am @ Hassocks FC
Match photos, courtesy of Steve Mills, can be viewed at https://www.stevemillsphotography.co.uk/