They've won the Cup! Chichester City Ladies see off Brighton for Sussex glory

Chichester City Ladies are celebrating winning the Sussex County Women’s Challenge Cup following a 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion's development team.

There was barely two minutes on the clock when Molly Clark fired in from 30 yards, beating the young Seagulls goalkeeper Laura Hartley.

Chances came and went for Chi while Brighton also threatened - but with a strong, experienced defence the Green Army took home the cup.

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Boss Aaron Smith made a couple of changes to the side who beat Coventry United and Watford as Sara Tubby and Tash Stephens started, Gracie White received a call-up while Sharna Capel-Watson returned.

Chichester were taking on the 17-times Sussex Cup winners at Culver Road, home of Sussex County FA and Lancing FC, and were facing a young Albion Development XI who had a hatful of international players.

Chi City Ladies lift the Sussex Cup / Picture by Sheena Booker

Chi City Ladies lift the Sussex Cup / Picture by Sheena Booker

Six of the Brighton squad had turned out for the first team at least once this season with Beth Roe a regular in the senior Seagulls side.

Even before the early goal Nadine Bazan found Stephens in the box but she was penalised for a foul as she looked to head the ball in.

But in the second minute the ball did find the back of the net through top goalscorer.Clark. A poor clearance fell to her and she had plenty of time and space to whizz the ball back at goal - stunning the keeper and the crowd.

Three minutes later Jess Lewry was found in the box and turned the defence but her effort from an awkward angle blazed over.

Hartley and her defence were kept very busy in the opening exchanges, the Seagulls’ keeper making a triple save in the eighth minute to deny Chi a second.

Life continued to be difficult for Brighton as the threats in front of goal kept coming, Lewry’s header deflected off a defender and was fumbled by Hartley before going out for a corner.

While Chi were threatening Brighton were carving out attacks of their own, but Lauren Dolbear remained unchallenged in goal with the advances dealt with by the back four.

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As the game neared the break Chi still looked the most likely to score a second and nearly capitalised on a couple more fumbles by Hartley.

The keeper nearly dropped Stephens' header into her net before spilling a Lauren Cheshire lofted shot which was fired over by Tammy Waine.

The second half started much the way in finished; Stephens smashing one that was so close to a second and was followed up on the volley by Lauren Clark, only to be kept out by Hartley’s foot.

Rebecca Barron tried to find a second from two corners but her efforts were blocked inside a packed Albion box.

The best shot of the game for Brighton came from Maya Le Tissier, her free-kick being well struck and rattling the woodwork, but the score stayed at 1-0 to Chi.

Substitutions incliuded one from Brighton which brought a switch of keepers, Lucy Williamson coming on. Ogle and Lewry couldn’t quite reach crosses to the back post - before Stephens’ long-range effort fell wide.

The pressure was on as time ticked down; Brighton creating opportunities but Dolbear remaining calm in her box.

Bazan had a chance as the game went into five minutes of injury time but her shot was saved by Williamson - before the keeper reacted quickly to tip over a fierce shot by Lewry.

The full-time whistle brought sheer delight for the Chichester City players and staff and soon the players made their way up to collect their medals and lift the cup.

This was a second Sussex County Cup final victory in the club's history, five years after their first win. This year's run brought victories over Bexhill United, Crawley Wasps and now Brighton & Hove Albion to bring silverware back to Oaklands Park - just 12 days, of course, after the City men's side won the SCFL premier division title.

City Ladies: Lauren Dolbear, Nadine Bazan, Lauren Cheshire (C), Tammy Waine, Tiff Taylor, Lauren Clark, Rebecca Barron, Molly Clark, Jess Lewry, Tash Stephen, Sara Tubby. Subs: Laura Ingram, Sharna Capel-Watson, Gemma Simmonds, Gracie White, Helen Ogle.