Some mouth-watering ties in the Sussex Senior Cup

Tommy Widdrington
Tommy Widdrington
  • Eastbourne Borough face Worthing United
  • Langney Wanderers take on Bognor
  • Hailsham looking to cause an upset against Lewes

After a wet and blustery sporting weekend, with some fixtures falling victim to the weather, local supporters have an absolute feast to savour tonight (Tuesday), with a full programme of cup football.

Four local teams take the field in second round ties in the Parafix Sussex Senior Cup – two at home and two away.

Eastbourne Borough will welcome Worthing United to Priory Lane. Borough were frustrated on Saturday by the late postponement of their National League game at Hemel Hempstead, because of a waterlogged pitch. Tommy Widdrington’s men trained as normal yesterday (Monday), but the Sports boss will be glad of a competitive fixture, ahead of the visit of league leaders Ebbsfleet next Saturday.

Since August, Worthing United have been on a journey that nobody, either in football or beyond, should have to take. Two of their first-team players, Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt died – on their way to a match – in the Shoreham air tragedy, and a tide of sympathy and goodwill has enveloped the club ever since then. United are in mid-table in the Southern Counties Combination and, emotions aside, they are sure to give the Sports a decent game.

Widdrington never takes such games lightly. “We respect all opponents, and we know that Worthing United will come to Priory Lane believing they can win. We will be well prepared and it promises to be an excellent contest.”

The Sports boss would relish a Senior Cup run. “It’s a great competition for both the club and the supporters, and the ultimate prize of the Final at the Amex is a grand way to finish any season.”

With a relatively small first-team squad, Tommy is unlikely to make wholesale changes, but it would be no surprise to see an opportunity for one or two of the promising Academy players who have featured on the bench in National South games this season. It’s a game that will probably go to form, but cup-ties wouldn’t be cup-ties without the occasional upset…

But the most fascinating tie of the round sends Langney Wanderers on a long haul to Bognor: no match of equals, but a contest that Wanderers will relish.

For years, if not decades, Bognor Regis Town has been effectively the West Sussex School of Footballing Science. With a playing surface traditionally as green and flat as a half-decent bowling green, the club has only ever played pass-and-move football. Under the legendary Jack Pearce as first long-serving manager and then even longer-serving chairman, the friendly and well-run Rocks have always been, in semi-pro football, everyone’s favourite opponents.

This season Bognor are among the Ryman Premier front-runners, and their most spectacular result came in the FA Cup, coming from behind to defeat powerful Oxford City 4-2, before unluckily falling to Wealdstone in the Fourth Qualifying Round. And on Saturday they ripped fellow contenders Canvey Island apart with a 5-0 victory.

And until this draw, Langney Wanderers will not even have been on the Bognor Regis Town radar. After all, even at this end of the county, Wanderers are probably football’s best-kept secret. From modest beginnings only four years ago, they have rocketed through the leagues: Lewes Sunday, East Sussex, and then County League Division Three, before securing their present place in Division One of the Southern Counties Combination. The club formed – and still driven – by Steve and Tracey Saunders plays on the tucked-away Shinewater Rec. No pretensions, simply an appetite for the game.

Respect everyone, but fear no-one. The Wanderers will head west tonight (Tuesday) with nothing to lose. Already this season they have a string of impressive league results behind them in Division One of the Southern Combination. And in cup competitions they can claim victories over the likes of Little Common and East Preston - a remarkable 7-0 in the previous round of the Senior Cup.

If Wanderers travel as underdogs, Eastbourne Town’s trip to Newhaven is perhaps the best balanced tie of the round. The Dockers are among Town’s strongest rivals for the Southern Counties Combination title – in a race that may well run until April – and they demolished hapless East Preston 10-0 on Saturday.

The Saffrons outfit may see promotion as the season’s priority, with a lucrative FA Vase run also tempting, but John Lambert will take his squad to Fort Road determined to make a point after Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Wick and Barnham.

And if you fancy an upset, you could do worse than to drop in at the Beaconsfield, where Hailsham Town entertain Lewes in what is virtually a local derby. The mighty Rooks – losing finalists at the Amex in May – are in a pretty awful state. After a huge summer turnover of players, and a dismal start to their Ryman Premier season, manager Steve Brown resigned and was recently replaced by Darren Freeman.

But the new Lewes boss is still rebuilding as side that sits bottom-but-one in the league, and he will surely not relish a midweek visit to lower-league opposition. The Stringers themselves have found league points hard to come by, but manager Ian Stevens has a squad full of commitment. A stunning 1-0 FA Vase victory at Gravesham will have restored self-belief, and Lewes may feel the force.

Rain washed out Hailsham’s fixture at Broadbridge Heath on Saturday, although this may also have given Stevens breathing space as he battles to reduce the club’s desperately long injury list.

Spoiled for choice? With no midweek Champions League on the satellite channels, to seduce fans into staying at home, there should be no excuses for local football followers. Pick a game, any game – and keep football live!

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