Suffolk through to Youth Cup semis

AN OUTSTANDING second-half display saw Suffolk turn the tables on Sussex to advance to the semi-finals of this season's competition.

Nick Garnham

AN OUTSTANDING second-half display saw Suffolk turn the tables on Sussex to advance to the semi-finals of this season's competition.

Suffolk trailed 1-0 at half time and were distinctly second best against a Sussex side who were left to rue not taking their chances as they lost to their visitors for the third time in the last four seasons.

Suffolk upped the tempo in the second period and once they equalised, looked the more likely to go on and win the game and so put themselves within one win of a third final appearance in four seasons.

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Sussex quickly closed down their opponents in the opening period and this, together with coming to terms with the bumpy East Preston pitch, knocked Suffolk out of their stride.

Sussex could have been ahead in the sixth minute when Andy Wilkinson's left-foot volley following a right-wing corner thumped against the crossbar with Suffolk goalkeeper Tom Ross well beaten.

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The hosts deservedly went ahead in the 28th minute when they broke quickly from a Suffolk corner and Ashley Rees scored with a header at the far post with the Suffolk defence all at sea.

When Suffolk, who gave a debut at under-18 level to Woodbridge Town centre back Stefan Marsh in place of the injured Scott Manning, did get in behind the strong Sussex defence the final ball was not good enough.

Ross saved at the feet of Rees who then shot weakly at the keeper at the end of a first half which saw Chris Henderson booked for a wild lunge on David Wheeler, and Ross go unpunished after he charged out of his area and collided with Dodd.

Suffolk introduced David Lorimer in place of Richard Gammon up front at the start of the second half. The equaliser duly arrived in the 58th minute due to the perseverance of Joe Bloomfield. The right back pulled the ball back from the byeline for Luke Read to turn home from close range.

John Sargent, a powerhouse in the Suffolk midfield, dragged his shot wide after the ball fell invitingly for him following a Ben Seaman fee-kick and Henderson created space and lifted his shot just over.

The winner duly arrived after 75 minutes when Seaman's right-wing corner was misjudged by keeper Jack Adams, who appealed in vain that he was fouled. As the ball dropped behind him Henderson applied the finishing touch from almost on the goalline.

Sussex could have fallen further behind as Henderson brilliantly brought down Luke Bailey's ball over the top of the defence but Adams saved with his legs. The keeper then did well to keep out Read's inswinging corner.

Ross and his defence stood firm as Suffolk comfortably closed out the game to set up a semi-final tie at home to West Riding, who defeated them on penalties in last year's final.

West Riding beat Wiltshire 2-0 in their quarter-final tie on Saturday.

The teams

Sussex: Adams, Broomfield, Wilkinson (sub Strevett 80 mins), Bennett-Grant, Philpott, Duncan (sub Ford 60 mins), Wheeler (sub Bowyer 80 mins), Walder, Rees, Koroma, Dodd. Unused subs: Levett, Farmer.

Suffolk: Ross (Woodbridge Town), Bloomfield (Felixstowe & Walton Utd), Bailey, Sargent (both Bury Town), Smith (Lowestoft Town), Marsh (Woodbridge Town), Henderson (Kirkley & Pakefield), Garnham (Woodbridge Town) (sub Douglas (Whitton Utd, 70 mins), Gammon (Newmarket Town) (sub Lorimer (Bildeston Rangers, 46 mins), Read, Seaman (both Woodbridge Town). Unused subs: Stacey (Bury Town), Ward (Stowmarket Town), Middlebrook (Bury Town).

ANDY Gould praised the resilience of his players after Suffolk reached the semi-finals of the FA County Youth Cup.

The Suffolk manager spoke of his side's doggedness before the game - and this came to the fore as they came from a goal down at the interval to see off Sussex.

He said: "We have got a great deal of belief among this group of players. Their resilience is probably their greatest attribute and I feel they are always capable of scoring a goal.

"Because of the state of the pitch it was a difficult surface to play on and not a great football match. Sussex did not capitalise on the chances they created in the first period when they were on top, but we could have scored three or four times in the second period.

"Joe Bloomfield did extremely well to reach the byeline and Luke Read was in the right place to score just as he was earlier in the season," said Gould referring to Read's late winner in the second round against Hertfordshire.

"Chris Henderson was there to legally impede the keeper at the corner and the ball was delivered in the right area and he was able to capitalise on that for the winning goal."

Gould felt Suffolk deserved their victory overall: "On the balance of play we deserved it. Virtually the whole of the second half was played in their half of the pitch and after we equalised there was only one team in it.

"I am absolutely delighted for the players. They have had a lot to live up to and they have dealt with it very well.

"We have now played six matches this season and won five and drawn one. We are going into February with a great chance to retain the East Anglian Counties Championship (Suffolk top the table after two wins and a draw) and a great opportunity to progress to the final of this competition at Portman Road."

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