FA Counties Youth Cup Semi-final
Devon FA 0 – 1 Sussex
Played at Plymouth Marjons Sports Centre 09/02/2020
Devon’s sojourn towards their first FA Counties Cup final since 1982 came to a disappointing end as they succumbed to the only goal of the game scored, right on the stroke of half-time, by Olly Munt of Whitehawk FC. This match probably should not have taken place, given the severity of the storm blowing across the County. Having to switch from a grass pitch at Tavistock to the artificial 3G surface at the Marjons at literally the 11th hour did not help either team with pre-match preparation. The Sussex team having travelled to Devon the day before, and staying overnight in Exeter, it was thought prudent to try to get the game played.
The conditions were exceptionally wild, but Devon started the match with the wind in their favour although, as the half wore on, it seemed not to be so much of an advantage as play was continually disrupted with strong gusts taking the ball out of play. These two high scoring teams would, I am sure, have provided a really good exhibition given that they had scored 27 goals between them to get to this stage, Devon scoring 17 with 4 against in three matches and Sussex 10 with 1 against in two.
Devon poured forward in the early stages and it was backs to the wall at times for Sussex, but few chances were created. The first came in the 15th minute when Devon’s Josh Baxter (Torquay Utd Youth) flicked a corner inches wide of the post. The next came in the 21st minute, Owen Raven (Torpoint Athletic) trying his luck from 35 yards, the wind picking it up and taking it just past the far post. As the game wore on the strengthening wind was having more and more effect, so much so that a goal kick taken by Sussex custodian Taylor Seymour (Lewes FC) was picked some 30 yards out and went out of play for a corner to Devon.
Sussex’s defence was giving little away but the effectiveness of the Devon wing backs, Charlie Miller (Bovey Tracey) and Josh Parry (Brixham AFC) was limited as they were unable to catch up to the ball once it had been driven forward. With ten minutes left in this first half, Sussex, having weathered the storm, started to get a lot more possession. The wind was driving the ball away from the Devon defenders towards the Sussex attack who were not waiting for the ball to come on to them. With three minutes left their patience was almost rewarded when Brad Santos (Lewes FC) shot just over from 22 yards.
Right on half time Sussex scored what proved to be the only goal of the game as Santos picked up a loose ball down Devon’s left flank and fired in a cross which, held up in the wind, found Munt who gave Devon’s keeper Josh Nicol (Bovey Tracey) no chance with his volley from eight yards.
The second half kicked off with Devon facing what was becoming an even stronger wind bring with it heavy rain however, with Ethan Slater (Torquay Academy) on for Raven they kept the ball down and started to make inroads into the Sussex defence. Sussex were now experiencing the same difficulties Devon had in keeping the ball in play but as the half went on, they settled into a good rhythm and, whilst Devon were chasing the game and leaving gaps at the back, started to create good chances. In the 62nd minute Demas Ramsis (Whitehawk) warmed Nicol’s hands with a rasping shot and moments later Nicol was again called into action saving with his feet from Tom Chalaye (Worthing FC). Two more chances to make the game safe came Sussex’ way in the 75th minute but the wind was the winner on both occasions, pulling the shots wide of Nicol’s goal.
In the 78th minute Devon replaced a tired looking Mani Skett (Buckland Athletic), who had run his socks off, with Rhys Fuller (Exeter College). The effect was almost immediate as Devon drove forward in search of an equaliser which almost came in the 84th minute. Fuller bring the ball down inside the box only to fire his shot just wide with Seymour well beaten. Devon’s tails were up and two minutes later Ollie Holman (Wellington Town) is clean through, chips Seymour and can only watch as the ball just clears the crossbar. That was the last real chance for Devon gone as Sussex closed ranks to see out a one – nil victory and their place in the final.
Player of the Match – Josh Baxter (Devon)