Oliva inspires Burgess Hill Town U16s to Sussex cup glory

A Luca Oliva brace helped Burgess Hill Town Juniors to a thrilling victory over AS Eastbourne in the Sussex John Davey Cup Final (U16s) at Culver Road.

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Oliva struck once in each half, as his side clinched a deserved victory in an intense encounter.

Burgess Hill were also helped by a superb Justin Sibanda solo goal that put them 3-1 up, when the game was very much still in the balance.

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Eastbourne initially went in front in the ninth minute when Baran Kartal tapped in Lee Whalley’s well directed low cross at the back post.

Burgess Hill Town Juniors lifting the Sussex John Davey Cup | Picture by Simon Rose PhotographyBurgess Hill Town Juniors lifting the Sussex John Davey Cup | Picture by Simon Rose Photography
Burgess Hill Town Juniors lifting the Sussex John Davey Cup | Picture by Simon Rose Photography

But Burgess Hill responded quickly via Joshua Hebert, who equalised in the 15th minute with a low deflected shot from just outside the penalty area.

The next real opening came when Kartal burst down the left flank and found Josiah Kallicharan in the 18-yard box, but the Eastbourne centre forward could only force a comfortable save from Burgess Hill keeper Kieran Bassom.

On 25 minutes Eastbourne nearly created a carbon copy of the opener, but Kartal couldn’t quite get a clean shot away after he was found by Kallicharan at the back post.

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Burgess Hill maintained a threat, with a couple of superb opportunities just after the half-hour mark.

First, Hebert headed across goal, before Sibanda created a chance from nowhere when he came inside from the right flank and forced a strong Zach Kelvey save.

And moments later they failed to capitalise on Kelvey’s failure to clear after he attempted to sweep up a long ball.

In the 39th minute Burgess Hill were rewarded for their pressure when Oliva poked home a rebound after Sibanda’s cross turned shot ricochet off the front post, and into his path.

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Burgess Hill keeper Bassom was injured early into the second-half after he collided with Rian Todd, who had made an impressive, direct run into the penalty area. Thankfully Bassom was able to carry on.

Burgess Hill took a two-goal lead in the 48th minute when Sibanda produced a piece of magic when he burst down the right flank, waltzed inside, and calmly finished low into the corner.

But Eastbourne found a quick response through Kallicharan, who headed home five minutes later after he was left unmarked on the penalty spot.

Burgess Hill’s Hebert squandered a couple of guilt-edged opportunities as he dragged a clear shot wide of the post. He then intercepted the resulting goal kick but couldn’t find a teammate with a squared ball.

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But just moments later they restored their two-goal lead via Oliva’s second of the game, when he coolly swept in from close range in the 59th minute.

Eastbourne maintained a threat for the final 20 minutes as Arthur Grout and Whalley both dragged low efforts the wrong side of the left post.

But Burgess Hill came closest to another as Lucas Lee clattered the bar from close range, and they held firm to see out a deserved victory.

Speaking after the full-time whistle, Burgess Hill Town Juniors Manager, Umberto Oliva, said: “It’s fantastic, we’ve been in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals the last three years, so getting the win today was fantastic and I thought as good as AS Eastbourne were, I just think we deserved it in the end.

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“We play really brave football, with our two wide players and four in midfield, and we try to always create a situation where there’s five or six players attacking.

“They were really nervous in the changing room, a lot of them haven’t played anything like this before so they were nervous, but I knew we just needed to get out onto the pitch.

“I trust them, they’re a great group of kids. I've had them since the age of 10, so we knew that once they were on the pitch, the first pass, the first tackle, that they would settle down.

“A lot of them want to excel and do more which I think they can, but also, what a fantastic thing to be in a team that’s playing so well!”

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(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)

(Video highlights are available above and on YouTube - courtesy of Your Instant Replay)

Stats (AS Eastbourne-Burgess Hill Town Juniors): Goals (2-4), Shots (6-9), Shots on Target (2-7), Corners (5-3), Fouls (11-6), Offsides (1-4), Yellows cards (1-0), Red cards (0-0).

AS Eastbourne: Kelvey (GK), Gander (C), Marshall, Grout, Todd, Fraser-Smith, Kallicharan, Kartal, Smeeton, Thomas. Subs: Wilson, Perinbam, Neill, Ovenden, Outerbridge.

Burgess Hill Town: Bassom, Paz, Wintle, Hebert, Da Costa Duarte, Oliva, Sibanda, Price, Allen, Lazenby, Hughes (C). Subs: Lee, Sekyere, Barber, Alfieri, Maglente.