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Adur Athletic won an epic battle in the Sussex FA Trophy Final at the County FA Headquarters in Lancing on Thursday evening, 7-5 against Littlehampton Town Res in front of a large and appreciative crowd.
Having surrendered a five-goal lead to an astonishing second half comeback, Adur held their nerve and dominated extra time but had to wait until the 118th minute to regain the lead and eventually seal the victory. This was an occasion even the losers were winners for a stunning display of determination and skill when all seemed lost.
Adur had opened the scoring in the third minute through Hannah Lane's 20-yard shot and added a second from Lou Munday who outpaced the defence. Littlehampton recovered some stability but never threatened in attack.
Adur seemed to have settled the outcome with three further goals in four minutes towards the break. A Katie Goatcher penalty, a Munday strike following a fine initial save from Brittani Wilson and a brave Gemma Worsfold finish after a shot rebounded from the post made the score 5-0. Amazingly, Littlehampton immediately reduced the deficit when Vanessa Berney scored from the edge of the area before half time.
The second half was a compete reversal in form and fortune. Substitutes Gemma Davis and Kayleigh Wedge were outstanding as Littlehampton produced the football they had failed to deliver in the first half and drove Adur into desperate defence for almost the whole period. Player manager Emma Biffi went close before subs Wedge and Davis (with a 30-yard special) conjured up three goals between them on 53, 56 and 74 minutes to make the score 5-4.
Adur had lost goalkeeper Sarah Dyke, injured in trying to save Wedge's low shot for 5-3 and Rowena James went in goal. It seemed that Adur would hang on until Littlehampton captain Carrie Hillier met a free kick with a precise header on 88 minutes and completed a heroic revival.
In extra time, however, Adur managed to regroup and created a number of chances, often through the pace and skill of twins Kirstie and Michelle Fox and it was the latter who effectively settled the match by latching on to a loose ball after a defensive error on 118 minutes . Substitute Chloe Cunnell added to the amazing collection of long range goals with a rocket in the final minute to finally kill off Littlehampton and take the Trophy.
It was fitting that both sides celebrated with champagne at the end with their large groups of supporters. This was a superb exhibition of stamina and belief by both squads and their management teams and supporters deserve great credit for leading and encouraging their players so effectively throughout the match. The Sussex FA have an impressive facility with a newly rebuilt main stand and this was a final worthy of the setting .
Adur Athletic: Sarah Dyke (sub Rowena James 56mins), Michelle Fox, Kirstie Fox, Joanna Davut, Lauren Woodward, Charlotte Royston, Hannah Lane (sub Jessica Hunt 26mins), Gemma Worsfold (sub Chloe Cunnell 65mins), Lou Munday, Katie Goatcher, Rhea Edwards.
Littlehampton Town Res: Brittani Wilson, Carrie Reynolds (sub Kayleigh Wedge 45mins), Gemma Halford (sub Karen Paizeaird 78mins), Ellie Thorne (sub Gemma Davis 45mins), Kirsty Murray, Debbie Lineham, Carrie Hillier, Jo Norman, Vanessa Berney, Emma Biffi, Nicola Harrison Sub not used: Jemma Gurr.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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