UCKFIELD Grasshoppers won the Mid-Sussex U-15 B League title in a thrilling finale which went right down to the wire.
A tight finish between Uckfield and Cuckfield Cosmos had been on the cards, but after the previous week’s games it looked as though Cosmos were home and hosed, as they beat Rottingdean and Uckfield capitulated to Marle Place, leaving Cuckfield with a commanding four point lead with just two games to play.
The following Sunday, the rivals played each other and Uckfield ran out winners with a hard fought 2-1 victory, bringing them to within one point of Cuckfield and giving them a better head to head record, having won two of their three matches.
On the Wednesday evening, Cuckfield travelled to Rottingdean for a 6pm kick off. Cosmos scored early and looked to be heading for a narrow victory and the league title, but Rottingdean rallied and equalised through their “supersub”with two minutes left on the clock.
It left the door ajar for Uckfield, who played St Francis Rangers in a 7.30pm kick-off.
The game was enterprising and played in a great spirit, with both teams enjoying the open spaces of the large county pitch and the experience of playing under lights.
Uckfield gradually started to control the game, mainly through their captain, the excellent Cian O’Hara. He buzzed around everywhere, never missed or lost a tackle and continually drove his team forward. It was his pass which split the defence after 15 minutes and put through the pacey Chris Heal to calmly place beyond the St Francis keeper. Shortly afterwards, the same combination led to the same result for 2-0.
Shortly before half time, Man of the Match O’Hara again released Heal, who made a great run down the left and provided a pinpoint cross which was brilliantly volleyed home by Josh Holden from 15 yards.
The second half also saw some excellent football, with both teams playing their parts. For St Francis, Ross Laver in goal made some great saves and showed great judgment and bravery in coming off his line, whilst twin brother Tom worked tirelessly in midfield alongside Conor Carolan.
For all of St Francis’ excellent play, however, there was simply no way through Grasshoppers’ defence, where Sam Espley and Jake Bartlett dealt with everything their opponents could throw at them. As the game went on and news of the score from Rottingdean came through, Uckfield turned on the style. Normal goalkeeper or defender Harrison Rathborn went forward to crash in an unstoppable effort from the edge of the area to crown off yet another slick move - another assist for captain O’Hara.
The 4-0 scoreline gave Grasshoppers their first Mid-Sussex title and manager Keith Rathborn a well-earned drenching from his team during the after-match celebrations.
The victorious Uckfield squad was Sam Aldis, Max Aldred, Jake Bartlett, Tom Clift, Sam Espley, Chris Heal, Josh Holden, Christian Macintosh, Robert Miller, Joe Mills, Cian O’Hara (capt), Nick Parsons, Harrison Rathborn and James Stannard. In addition to winning the title, Grasshoppers also had the best disciplinary record in the league over the season. Cuckfield finished second, one point behind, having lost only two games all season - both to the champions.