After the last minute drama of Wednesday to defeat Steyning 2-1 in the quarter finals of the SSFA County Cup tie, the Worthing College Men’s Football ECFA XI squad had little time to relax as on Thursday evening they set off for Gloucester to take on the might of ESFA reigning champions and arguably the best College side in England in the form of Hartpury College.
After a solid nights sleep at Cheltenham’s travelodge and decent breakfast the squad travelled to a nearby park to stretch the legs and also partake in a couple of games of one touch, one bounce. The squad were in a relaxed, yet focused mood.
Arriving at Hartpury’s palatial facilities Worthing College were fully driven towards the task at hand, looking to achieve a semi final place in the England Schools Cup.
With the physical exertions of the week Worthing College welcomed back Matt Boiling and Fintan Walsh, who had played for England Colleges’ vs. Australia on the Monday. Jack Newhouse and Charlie Williamson were also back in the starting line up after being totally rested against Steyning.
Worthing College lost the toss and were playing into the bright Gloucestershire sunshine. The game started at a decent tempo with Hartpury being on top possession wise, however Worthing College were keeping them at bay with some positive and intelligent defending.
Hartpury had the first clear cut chance, however their pacy striker only found the side netting and didn’t test Worthing College keeper Luke Ramsay. Hartpury were beginning to put the pressure on with a number of corners, however again Worthing College stood firm.
As the half grew on Worthing College begun to get a foothold in the game by breaking up play and looking to get the ball wide. Worthing College had the ball in the net from a Jack Newhouse set piece. Newhouse delivered a second phase cross and Boiling had seemed to time his run to perfection to head the ball past the onrushing Hartpury keeper, but the linesman flag was up and Worthing College were denied the lead.
This seemed to spur Worthing College on and again they created a clear cut chance. Lewis Broughton drove into the Hartpury penalty area and his strike was well saved by the Hartpury keeper and just evaded the onrushing Luke Brodie for a potential tap in.
With half time approaching Ramsay was adjudged to handle the ball outside his box and the resulting free kick was superbly defended by Walsh, who cleared his lines well and was excellently positioned on the goal line.
Half time the honours were even and rightly so in such a tight encounter. The focus at half time was to be better in possession to match all the hard work completed out of possession. Also to refocus that set pieces will be key to the result and who would take their place in the semi final.
Worthing College started exceptionally well and seemed to believe that they could win the match. Luke Brodie was leading the line superbly, giving the centre backs a torrid time both on the floor and in the air.
Ricky Aguiar came into his own in the second half and began to dominate midfield. His free kick beat the Hartpury keeper all ends up, but rattled the cross bar with a Walsh and Brodie effort both blocked. Broughton was tireless in his efforts and another one of his strikes just went the wrong side of the post. Could Worthing College do it? Could they beat the reigning champions?
At the other end the back four of Williamson, Boiling, Walsh and James Younger were outstanding in their defensive duties and intelligence. However Hartpury broke through only for Ramsay to pull off an outstanding one handed stop. The credit of the back 5’s work was visible when Hartpury changed their striker three times during the second half.
Aguiar then nicked the ball in midfield and his driving run was stopped and a free kick awarded on the edge of the box. Jack Newhouse stepped up and wrong footed the keeper to send the ball into the far corner. 1-0 WORTHING COLLEGE cue the celebrations by the away dug out.
Broughton’s race was run and not surprising after his exploits on the Wednesday too. He was replaced by Ruben Denyer-Schneider, a great replacement to put on with his quality and intelligence. The shape and intensity of the Worthing College side was second to none, however after another outstanding cover challenge by Younger, he had to make way after injury. He was replaced by Callum Chalmers.
Worthing College were playing intelligent football, by trying to force Hartpury back. A couple of bookings for time wasting and the introduction of Callum Litterick for Aguiar to support the defensive unit. Litterick made a couple of vital headers and clearances, and with 4 minutes injury time played the referee finally blew his whistle. WORTHING COLLEGE HAVE BEATEN HARTPURY COLLEGE 1-0!
Performance Coach Dave Hall was almost left speechless at the end of the game “today is up there with one of the best performances I have witnessed in terms of a side I have been in charge of. From the travel to the game, accommodation and pre game preparation was spot on from the players and they are really growing not only as players, but also as people. First half was even, but we weren’t as good in possession that we could have been, however defensively and from set pieces we were exceptional and I was so pleased for Jack to get the winner. Like all the players he has been working so hard on his game and great for him to get his just rewards for his recent performances. I would like to add that Hartpury didn’t have a game on the Wednesday either, so they were fresher than us physically, but I’m so proud of how the boys applied themselves mentally and physically to beat the best team in England. This shows they are growing into intelligent footballers. Two semi finals to now look forward to, but after a bit of recovery we all need to go again to make sure we give it our best shot. I’m so proud of the whole programme and its achievements to date across its 10 years in existence.”