Newman Lewes Academy 0
Worthing College 6 (Tubby 12, 45, 57; Rolf 16; Booker 55; Pursey 59)
In the battle of the Sussex academies, experience won the day as Worthing College, the academic arm of Brighton’s development set-up, swept aside Newman’s, the newest kids on the block, established by East Sussex rivals Lewes last summer.
Managed by top-quality coaches – Lewes Ladies first team boss John Donoghue at Newman’s and Worthing by Amy Merricks, recently appointed assistant manager of Super League Brighton – both groups of teenagers must be the envy of the county’s young female footballers.
And both managers declared themselves happy with what they saw at Lewes’s 3G complex as Worthing’s superior pace, power and composure broke down the admirable resistance of their young opponents, several of whom play in the same Sunday teams.
Worthing, with a 19-year-old and several 18-year-olds in their experienced squad, won comfortably to progress to the final of the Sussex Colleges County Cup, the impressive Sara Tubby bagging a hat-trick and spurning a similar number of chances.
But Lewes delighted their manager with their spirit and perseverance, and proved to him that the collection of predominantly 16-year-olds have begun heeding words of wisdom from him and his coach, Greg Cross, and are developing into a proper team.
Worthing’s academy team are well established and looking to strengthen still further with their next intake – there’s an open day in a fortnight – as they combine education with the genuine prospect of a development pathway in football.
Newman’s – part of Newman College, in Hove – is in its first year, so Donoghue’s young charges are still finding their feet in a competitive environment that pitches his 16- and 17-year-olds against considerably older players who have far more experience at this level.
The gap was in evidence at The Rookery today as Worthing eased to a comfortable victory, but there were plenty of signs that it is being closed by a bunch of girls with attitude – for Lewes, eminently the right attitude.
Worthing took the lead in the 12th minute, having enjoyed the bulk of possession – and territory – in the opening stages, during which winger Niamh Andersson and striker Sara Tubby had already shown several signs of a good understanding.
When Newman’s defence failed to clear their lines, Tubby was the first to react and slotted calmly past Kaysha Franchi in the Newman goal.
Worthing could have doubled their lead within a minute as Jodie Pallant, taking advantage of poor concentration among Newman’s defenders, brought the ball down in the area with a superb first touch but hit her shot just beyond the far post.
Yet Newman forced the first corner of the game, which Worthing goalkeeper Jacqui-Anne Goldsmid did well to save on the line.
But almost immediately, with only 16 minutes gone, the visitors had a second, which owed much to the brilliance of Keavy Booker.
The defender intercepted a pass before embarking on a forceful run out of defence, swaying past two players before lifting a superb pass into the path of captain Annie Rolf, who had timed her run impeccably. The Brighton player took a touch to control the ball before tucking home number two.
Newman’s were struggling to secure meaningful possession as Worthing’s front four pressed their opponents deep in their own half, but right-back Emily Linscer enjoyed a brief foray into enemy territory with a powerful run from deep before she was crowded out by Worthing’s underworked defence.
Franchi had to be alert to deny the visitors a third goal in the 21st minute, thwarting Millie Carter, playing against her old college, after she had been played in by a perceptive Rolf through-ball.
Andersson, who had swapped wings with Carter, beat Linscer down the left before pulling the ball back for Tubby, who laid it back for Rolf, who blasted well wide.
Franchi again came to Newman’s rescue on 28 minutes when she blocked Andersson’s effort after her sublime touch and turn had engineered some space in the home side’s penalty area.
At the other end Megan McCready showed good composure to clear the danger after a high ball had caused rare problems in the Worthing box.
And then the visitors strung together a move of more than a dozen passes before it ended in anti-climax when Holly Clarke pumped an aimless ball too close to the goalkeeper.
The passing was flowing now, and Newman’s were indebted to Lucy Apps for a goal-line clearance following a move involving Pallant, Andersson, Lucy Steel and Valentine Pursey.
On 38 minutes Carter and Clarke combined, the former finding Pursey in space in the area, but she blasted her shot over the bar.
Newman responded within seconds with an even more wayward effort from distance by Jess Tsapparelli from Ava Rowbotham’s pass.
Worthing continued to play the more measured football, with Newman’s having settled down after a fraught start but denied space and time by their indefatigable opponents.
Pursey played a superb long-range pass to Andersson, hugging the touchline, but Rolf was unable to make the most of the winger’s pass, shooting just wide from an acute angle – the final meaningful effort of the opening 40 minutes.
Half-time: Newman Academy 0-2 Worthing College
Molly Towers replaced the under-worked Goldsmid in the Worthing goal for the second half, while Newman’s Carter was switched to a more central attacking role.
Worthing, inevitably, fired in the first effort of the half when Tubby shot on the turn, but her strike was comfortably held by Franchi.
And they extended their lead on 45 minutes when Tubby capitalised on a lucky rebound off a Newman defender to slot home number three.
With confirmation that the game was now out of their grasp, Newman’s seemed to settle more into the game, keeping the ball for longer periods, with the rather isolated Lauren Amerena holding the ball well up front and very nearly playing in Tsapparelli.
Yet it was Worthing who came so close to a fourth – and Tubby a hat-trick – when her header from a corner struck the bar.
Rolf tried her luck from long range but Franchi cleared at the second attempt.
Tubby shot just wide after another superb turn in the box.
And then Carter, looking more comfortable in her central role, played in Rolf with a clever volleyed lob over the Newman defence, and Franchi again needed two attempts to keep out the Worthing captain’s effort.
Newman’s were under the cosh, but Faye Hannaford in particular was performing well under pressure, and on 53 minutes, the increasingly influential Tsapparelli forced Towers into a good save from her snapshot from the edge of the box.
It was Franchi’s turn to impress in goal as she saved well, low down, from Tubby’s shot.
But in the 55th minute it was four when an unmarked Booker volleyed home from a corner.
Two minutes later it was five as Tubby finally completed her hat-trick with a tidy finish after a superb first-time pass from Andersson.
After McCready tidied up another rare venture forward by Newman’s, Pursey added her name to the scoresheet with an opportunist finish after Franchi was left stranded after attempting to clear a through-ball.
Megan Stephens, who had been brought on at right-back for Worthing, was causing Newman’s fresh problems down their left, with her pace and power and intelligent running.
And those problems mounted when Newman were forced to play the last 15 minutes with 10 players after Amerena became the second player to be removed through injury.
Still Newman stuck to the task, exemplified by clever passing out of defence between Rowbotham and Izzy Bloomfield.
But equally, there was no let-up from Worthing, who, despite regularly changing personnel, continued to press high and break forward quickly.
They won a string of corners in a three-minute spell shortly before the end, Booker again squandering an opportunity when she connected with the last of them but fired over from inside the six-yard box.
Andersson went close when she struck an angled shot just beyond the far post, and then Stephens screwed her cross out of play after excellent interplay with Abigail Mason.
With so many youngsters from Sussex’s two leading clubs on show, the quality was always going to be high, and Worthing’s superiority, borne largely from age and experience, was evident.
Given that gulf, neither manager was dwelling on the scoreline. But club rivalry – together with the fact that so many of the youngsters play with or against each other at weekends – ensured there was a competitive edge and keen spirit to this county cup semi-final.
John Donoghue (Newman Lewes): “They’re a team now – not individuals”
“You always hope that it’s going to be your day, but I think you are always realistic, as well. We had nine first-year college girls – 16-year-olds – we had two Year 10s – so two 15-year-olds – and one Year 11, who has just turned 16.
“We’ve already got 10 people who have expressed an interest in joining [following open evenings at both the academy and Lewes Ladies]… and the promotion for it is still going on (see contact details below).
“So we’ll have a group of first years going into their second year and we’ll have a new intake of [college first years].
“Our aim, every game we play, is to look at how we are progressing, how and where we need to try to add players, because yes, it’s a college programme for education, but also it’s to develop players.
“I’ve got eight of them in [Lewes’s] Foundation Squad (who play in the Sussex County Women and Girls League). We also had, last weekend against Spurs in the [Premier Reserve League], two of our academy players playing in the development squad.
“So that, for me, is really encouraging because the Foundation Squad are playing in a women’s league and they’ve got eight 16/17-year-olds playing – and the older players, I think, are two 19-year-olds.
“In view of all that, I think the girls competed. If someone came along and watched the game, you would say yes, Worthing looked the more likely to score the goals, but our girls were prepared to try to get the ball and pass it.
“Our girls were prepared to physically compete against some players who play international football. Our players played the last 10 minutes with 10 players and they were still prepared to work hard.
“So I’m really encouraged by that performance because the level that they have attained from the beginning of the season to now… there has been a real marked improvement.
“They’re like a team, whereas at the beginning of the season, there were lots of individuals playing in positions that maybe they weren’t used to.”
- For details of recruitment contact Claire Capon (girls’ football academy liaison officer) or Victoria Jones (admissions office), or phone 01273 234332.
Amy Merricks (Worthing Academy): “It isn’t just about Brighton”
“Credit [Newman’s] where it’s due. That’s where we were, going back three or four years. But you have to go through those first steps to build to where you are.
“[The improvement] is partly experience, partly the drive that you put through the recruitment, because it’s tough. You have to make sure that you bring players in. We’ve got an open-evening session coming up (details below), so hopefully, we’ll get some youngsters down there.
“And it’s what we can offer, as well. We have partnerships with other clubs now, the likes of Chichester City, Worthing, so a lot of the girls play there – it isn’t just about Brighton.
“We like to make that clear because we want girls to have the opportunity to play at the right level for them. There might be girls in there who take a couple of extra years than the likes of Valentine [Pursey] and Annie [Rolf] until they come and play for [Brighton].
“But Keavy [Booker] has been at Chichester for half the season and has just signed for us as well because we’ve noticed that she’s developed and made that step. It is about making sure that players feel comfortable where they’re playing.
“They can come to us and develop, and then when they get there, the pathway is there for them to lead on again.
“We’ve got a couple of older ones here today, but a lot of them are first years.
“For me, I don’t care about the scoreline, and I make that clear week in, week out. I just want them to enjoy the game, I want them to improve and I want them to be on the ball – and I really enjoyed today because we were on the ball. We moved the ball really well.
“I look for, are we improving as a side? And yes, we are. Are we doing what we’ve looked at in training? Yesterday we looked at some key points about moving the ball and using the pitch and using the middle three well. And we got that out [today]. So I’m delighted with today’s performance.
“And they’re all smiling, so there’s nothing better for me.”
- Worthing College/Brighton Academy open evening is on February 22, (5-7pm), at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing. For details e-mail Amy Merricks with name, date of birth and current club.
Sent Her Forward player of the match: Niamh Andersson (Worthing College)
Left wing, right wing, Andersson excelled wherever she was. Her pace and skill made her a constant thorn in Newman’s young defence, and she was the key outlet whenever Worthing looked to attack.
She didn’t quite manage to get on the score sheet, but she was behind much of Worthing’s best work.
Close behind was Sara Tubby, who thoroughly deserved her hat-trick and could have had more. Already a regular in the Brighton development side that heads the southern section of the development squads’ Super League, she looks to have a bright future with the club.
Annie Rolf, another with considerable club experience already, chipped in with an elegant performance as a playmaker, while Megan Stephens looked highly impressive when she appeared as a substitute early in the second half. The full-back offered an attacking outlet down the right, but what impressed me most about her was her anticipation and intelligent running.
Newman have their own starlets, not least of whom is another defender, Emily Linscer, who did well under the intense pressure to which Worthing subjected the home defence, but looked just as good going forward.
That Worthing scored only six was due in part to their profligacy, but also to the performance of goalkeeper Kaysha Franchi, who thwarted her marauding opponents time and again, while Ava Rowbotham and Jessica Tsapparelli became increasingly influential as their confidence grew during the game.
Sent Her Forward match rating: 7/10 A spirited contest between two sides who are not quite yet evenly matched but who comprise players who have big futures in women’s football.