Collyer’s 1 (Taylor 19)
BHASVIC 5 (Chambers 45, 75; Piggott 55; Butcher 64, 66)
Two Sussex colleges, helping to nurture the county’s footballing future, met on the playing fields of Horsham and demonstrated why its upper echelons, at least, look pretty secure .
Both relatively recent beneficiaries of the rapidly growing interest in female football, the visitors, Brighton, Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College, are clearly further down the line, with places at their institution very much in demand among the county’s most talented up-and-coming footballers.
Collyer’s, the College of Richard Collyer, are not yet quite so blessed for playing options, but their manager and PE teacher, Laura Carruthers, believes they, too, have turned a corner as the college’s football department pushes towards academy status.
The pair, boasting young players who have already made a mark among some of Sussex’s top sides, Brighton and Lewes, staged a compelling contest at the impressive Horsham complex, largely cancelling each other out until the visitors’ superior stamina – and the hosts’ declining numbers – conspired to hand the edge back to BHASVIC.
They ran out emphatic winners, but not before they had been given a scare by their hosts, who were still bearing down on the BHASVIC goal as the game moved into stoppage time.
The victory reinforced the Hove side’s assault on a third successive Sussex Schools FA title, although their manager, Joe McTiffen, acknowledges (with, I sense, a degree of difficulty) that development is more important than results.
One challenge managers of college teams face is the more pronounced difference in quality among team-mates than is generally present at the likes of Lewes and Brighton, where many of the students play.
Yet with a plan, a bit of organisation and some fitness fanatics to bail flagging colleagues out in the final quarter, such issues can be sorted out effectively, and those who perhaps rely more on tenacity and enthusiasm than technique and aptitude can rightfully share in the glory of success.
By and large, it was those with the superior ability who carried BHASVIC to victory today, but the scoreline somewhat flattered them as Collyer’s struggled on with no substitutes and without one of their outfield players for the final quarter of an hour.
And in Abbie Sandle, their impressive, cultured centre-back, and goalkeeper Megan Hannah, they had the best two players on show.
Sandle barely missed a challenge during the 80 minutes, often reaching balls she had no right to through intelligent positioning. She also tackled cleanly and effectively, limiting noticeably the still considerable impact of her fellow number six, Alice Chambers, who nevertheless managed to have a big effect on the outcome.
And Hannah pulled off a series of spectacular saves to keep her side in the game, particularly when BHASVIC stepped up the pressure in the second half, and on this form would walk into many top regional sides.
BHASVIC slipped into gear a little more easily than their hosts, their early game full of passing and movement, and they pressed Collyer’s high up the pitch, forcing the Horsham side to play hurried clearances which just came back to them.
The Brighton and Hove side went agonisingly close to taking the lead after nine minutes, Henna Butcher striking the post from 20 yards and Anne Bridges hitting the bar with the follow-up.
Most of the BHASVIC movement was coming down their left side, with Chambers at the centre of all their most enterprising play.
However, she met her match in Sandle, who time and again thwarted her marauding runs with perfectly timed tackles or interceptions.
BHASVIC, with the luxury of four substitutes, introduced Lewes striker Chloe Evans, recovering from a back injury, on 14 minutes.
Almost immediately, she conjured up a snapshot out of nothing, but Georgina Baker managed to take the sting out of the effort and Hannah held comfortably.
In a rare attack, on 18 minutes, Natalie Taylor, whom I last watched outclassing some of Chelsea’s development side with Brighton’s second string, fed Molly Towers Mode, but goalkeeper Zoe Stubbs was out of her goal in a flash to whip the ball off her feet.
A minute later, despite their limited possession, Collyer’s took the lead. BHASVIC’S defence, which thus far had been under-employed, were caught napping by a series of passes across the edge of their area, and Taylor was on hand to put away the opportunity.
Inevitably, the goal gave the home side confidence – and impetus – and with Sandle continuing to mop up everything that came her way in defence, her team-mates began to take the game to their opponents.
After Butcher had shot wide for BHASVIC after a clever pass by Evans, the irrepressible Sandle turned defence into attack, superbly halting the dangerous Butcher and carrying her own side up the field, from where they won their first corner, with 24 minutes gone.
In a repeat of a move I’d seen them rehearse before the game, the ball was played back to Juliette Berry, whose shot was headed off the line by Summer Dutton for a second corner.
This time the ball was cleared after a scramble in the BHASVIC box.
For all Collyer’s new-found attacking instincts, BHASVIC still looked threatening when going forward, and Sandle, inevitably, again halted the lively Chambers on 28 minutes before her team-mates crowded out the equally impressive Butcher.
On 32 minutes came the first of a string of superb saves from Hannah, the Collyer’s goalkeeper.
BHASVIC captain Ellie Ramsauer played a brilliant ball from the centre of midfield to Chambers on the left wing. She cut inside and unleashed a terrific shot, which was kept out at full stretch by Hannah.
Moments later Ramsauer had an opportunity from a free-kick 20 yards out, but her effort flew harmlessly over.
Then Butcher forced another fine save from Hannah, who did well to hold on to the midfielder’s fierce shot.
But Collyer’s were enjoying better possession in better positions, isolating BHASVIC’s strike force from their midfield.
But when the visitors did find their attacking players, the home defence was up to the challenge, Sandle again standing out when she forced Evans into a hurried shot straight at the goalkeeper after the striker broke free.
In the final action of the half, it was Butcher’s turn to break through, but Hannah again sprang quickly from her goal, saving bravely at her feet.
Half-time: Collyer’s 1-0 BHASVIC
The second half began in much the same mode, Collyer’s testing BHASVIC without looking like adding to their tally, while at the other end, Sandle continued her almost single-handed mission to snuff out the threat from Chambers.
But it was indeed the left-winger who brought the visitors back into the game on 45 minutes after good work by Evans, with an effort that appeared to benefit from a deflection and the low sun in Hannah’s eyes.
BHASVIC hit the woodwork for the third time on 47 minutes when Biba Piggott met a cross from the left with a header that struck the post. Hannah, inevitably, saved the follow-up.
Moments later, the goalkeeper excelled herself, tipping Butcher’s fierce drive round the post at full stretch for a third corner in quick succession.
While Collyer’s had to make do with the same 11 throughout the game, BHASVIC were making good use of their four substitutes to keep their players fresh, and it was beginning to tell as they enjoyed more possession in Collyer’s territory.
But Taylor, the Brighton player who is now in the England set-up, was coming more into the game and after a magnificent run down the left flank, her cross just eluded a host of players.
At the other end, Evans went close after being given far too much room 20 yards out, and in the 55th minute, her side took the lead from a goal that triggered some controversy.
With Carruthers, the Collyer’s manager, flagging for offside, the referee allowed the BHASVIC attack to continue, and Piggott tapped home. The official explained that the offside player was not involved directly in the move and he was satisfied that those who were were onside.
Collyer’s won a rare corner on 58 minutes after an excellent run out of defence by Fliss Love, and it was the same player who met the flag-kick with a header that was well saved by Stubbs.
Their opponents then won another corner of their own after another phenomenal tackle by Sandle, but Butcher’s flag-kick was cleared after another goalmouth scramble.
Despite BHASVIC’s narrow lead and superior possession, the match was still evenly poised, exemplified by Taylor’s excellent run down the right. But her shot, from an acute angle, hit the side-netting.
In the 63rd minute, Hannah made another trademark save, turning Chambers’ shot on the run around the post.
But as Collyer’s sensed an equaliser, they were brought down to earth with a bump by a double blow from the energetic Butcher in the space of two minutes.
On 64 minutes, she hit a fierce angled drive into the roof of the goal after Collyer’s tiring players again afforded her too much room, and in the 66th minute she finished off the home side when she was again left in acres of space, this time less than 10 yards out, after an excellent move involving Ramsauer and Chambers.
Collyer’s refused to give up, though, and Daisy Fitton went close when she found herself in front of the BHASVIC goal, but she was crowded out and Stubbs collected.
On 75 minutes it was 5-1 when Chambers scored her second after excellent play by Butcher.
The hosts’ energy levels may have dropped but their heads never did, and Taylor continued to take the game to BHASVIC whenever she could, firing over from distance and then, deep into stoppage time, very nearly getting to another tantalising ball, but the alert Stubbs picked it off her toes.
I had to keep reminding myself that these were two college – not club – sides, such was the commitment from minute one to minute 80 plus two.
The teams were not miles apart, despite the final scoreline, and both contributed to a very watchable contest that featured some outstanding individual contributions.
Collyer’s seek help from feeder clubs
Manager Laura Carruthers acknowledged that lack of bodies told in the end as her side’s gallant resistance finally crumbled midway through the second half.
She told Sent her Forward: “We had a slow start but then we managed to get into it and our key players started to play with confidence. We got a lucky rebound, but they were working hard and pressing.
“But unfortunately, in the second half, we were lacking in numbers, and another [player] had to go, which didn’t help. Usually we have about 14, but there were other things that some players had to be doing this week.
“But they really battled hard towards the end, even though the girls were outnumbered.”
Carruthers, who plays for Cowfold in the South East Counties Women’s League, has seen progress during her time as manager of the Collyer’s side and is optimistic about the future of women’s football at the college.
“They’re rolling out academies in rugby, basketball and netball, and I think we’re eventually going to go the same way for football – for boys and girls, hopefully.
“We’ve got a new kit this year, we’ve got a coach coming in on Fridays from Crawley Town, who helps train them. And we’re in two leagues, cups and other tournaments and friendlies. So the provision is really good and we’ll be pushing for the next couple of years to go even further.”
But she acknowledged the college currently had a relatively small pool to pick from.
“We do need the feeder schools to start linking and feeding us a bit more,” she said. “We’ve only really got Horsham Sparrows, who are the main feeder, and a couple of Crawley area players. We need a few more clubs in Horsham to feed into Collyer’s.
“And that’s about getting into primary schools, getting into secondary schools, and get them to see Collyer’s and what we’re doing here.
“You’ve got players that are playing for Brighton and England and Lewes, and then you’ve got some players that have never really played football before.”
BHASVIC eye double league triumph
Collyer’s counterparts found themselves in a similar position a few years ago, but they are now enjoying a golden spell, having won the Sussex Schools FA Ladies’ League for the past two seasons.
Joe McTiffen, their manager, recalled: “Five years ago BHASVIC struggled to get 11 [players] out. This year we’ve got 32 girls.
“We had our open evening last week, and I think we probably had about 50 or 60 girls coming to BHASVIC just because they’d heard about the women’s football programme.
“Here we do take it quite seriously, and the nice thing about BHASVIC is that it is such an academic college, as well. We’ve got a good mixture of good sport and a good academic college.
“We’ve got players from Brighton, Lewes, Hassocks…”
With so many of the squad, aged between 16 and 19, also playing at senior clubs in the county, there’s plenty of football to be played.
McTiffen said: “We have two training sessions a week, and the Wednesdays are always for college fixtures. If they don’t play on a Wednesday, they will train on a Wednesday.
“For some, that means training for us Tuesday morning, training for their clubs Tuesday evening, playing for college on Wednesday afternoon, and most of them also play on a Sunday.”
McTiffen insisted the principal aim of college football was development, but he admitted: “I am quite competitive. Being a footballer myself (he plays for Saltdean), of course we want to win. Our target this year was to win the Sussex League, which we won the last two years, but also to try to reach the semi-final of the National Cup.
“And in the national league, where we’re currently sitting top… we’re looking quite comfortable in that at the minute. I’d love to say we’ll win the Sussex and the national league.”
Of the win, McTiffen acknowledged that Collyer’s goal out of nothing threw his team out of their stride. He said: “For the next 15 minutes, we looked very shaky. I think, because we were so dominant and we couldn’t score, our nerves got to us a bit.
“But I think the substitutions helped. We could have four, roll on, roll off. They only had their 11, so I think that helped.
“Henna [Butcher] and Rambo [Ramsauer] are two of the girls that have been really pushing for their fitness. They’re really trying to impress, for Lewes, obviously. And at the end you could see Henna going like a steam train. She just doesn’t stop.
“It’s great for us because when we’re looking a bit tired, she’s the one who keeps us going.”
Sent Her Forward player of the match: Abbie Sandle (Collyer’s)
What a magnificent prospect she is. I’ve seen some top-quality defenders this season, but Sandle’s performance bore comparison with any of them. Like so many defenders these days, she is composed on the ball, quick across the ground and reads the game so well.
Her tackling and intercepting betray a sound technique, and her battle with Alice Chambers, the pick of the BHASVIC players, was the highlight of the match for me.
Apart from the two number sixes, there were standout performances from Natalie Taylor and goalkeeper Meg Hannah for Collyer’s and Henna Butcher, Ellie Ramsauer and Chloe Evans for BHASVIC.
But in a team game which is about more than the individuals, it was rewarding to see no let-up in effort from start to finish.
Sent Her Forward match rating: 6/10 Some top-class individual efforts, boosted by impressive commitment from all.