A cold crisp night greeted supporters for our Sussex Senior Cup 2nd round match against Littlehampton Town. I had recruited some volunteers to stop the balls going on the running track, as the runners were doing their drills around the track before the match. I had an interesting chat with Mike, the Arena 80 sprint coach, about how we go about getting some of our squad to participate in his sprint sessions in the future. He gave a wry smile and said that he found footballers didn't have the balance or the flexibility for high level sprinting and generally weren't well conditioned. He said 'we had one team, and out of 12 players only 2 could touch their toes.' Food for thought. Next training session... who can touch their toes!
Onto the game. A healthy crowd witnessed the V's win the match 3-0 but for the first 20 minutes of the game Littlehampton Town could have scored a couple themselves if it wasn't for a good save from Tom Bradford, a goal line clearance from Ollie Blackman and a couple of wayward shots from their forwards. The V's were also attacking well and had an equal share of chances. As we gradually began to assert control of the match we won a free kick on the left wing from which Scott Packer delivered a peach of a ball which begged for a tiny flicked header... Andy Pearson duly obliged.
The V's then took full control of the half with Ollie Stevenson in fine form giving us a solid base, as Brad and Chad (they sound like a double act off the muppets) began to create chances in midfield. The effervescent Arnie was buzzing around like an annoying wasp on the left wing while Packer busied himself down the right.
The V's were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area which we tried to take quickly releasing Packer only for the ref to pull it back, which was just as well as Scott's shot hit a metal container rather than the net. Scott, who can argue his way into any situation, remonstrated with the ref that we were entitled to take a quick free kick and then demonstrably despatched the ensuing re taken free kick into the goal, with a beautiful curling shot around the wall into the bottom corner. He managed to celebrate but still seemed partly upset about not being allowed the quick free kick. I did shout out to him from the stand to thank the ref which fell on deaf ears.
All we needed was a Matt Waterman goal to finish off the half and he despatched his trade mark left foot bullet to give us a 3-0 half time lead.
The clubhouse was full to the brim as spectators tried to keep warm with hot drinks and a lovely banana cake, baked by Jane. It was a pleasure to exchange anecdotes with some old faces including Steve 'Basher' Bates and Alan Stoner from Littlehampton's committee. They both played for the club, along with manager Mark Bennet, in the glory glory days of the early 90's. Basher had his eye on the marshmellow cakes and tried to assure us he hadn't had one in years which given the amount he ate could be true. I will supply wagon wheels next year!
The second half sort of drifted by with both teams having some near misses. Matt Waterman blazed a shot over from 6 yards which is still in orbit. Kev Keehan came on and with a gut busting run into the box managed to run beyond the ball but just tipped it to Dan Barden who showed us why he plays right back. Tom Bradford in goal was feeling a tight hamstring (his own I hasten to add) and so U18 goalie Tom 'Brocky' Barden came on to rapturous applause from his family for his season's debut and kept a clean sheet
Littlehampton Town played some tidy football at times but just didn't managed to connect on the night however with couple of key players cup tied I'm sure they will be a different proposition in the league and will be a team to watch out for the rest of the season. I know Mark Bennet will get them moving up the table having already made a key signing in Darren Boswel from Horsham. Their achilles heel will be if the club can afford the marshmellow cakes that Basher will demand at the club.
And so we are in the last 16 of the Sussex Senior Club which is no mean achievement for the V's who only 5 years ago were half way up the league in the Mid Sussex Premier. We have certainly come a long way in a short space of time and a lot of credit has to go to volunteers who work behind the scenes, Ryan Gayler who set the ball rolling in div 2, and is now 1st team coach, and to manger Kev Keehan who has enhanced the quality of the squad, drives us to new levels of achievement and does it with a positive infectious attitude.
Updated 13:59 - 30 Oct 2018 by Dave Bridges