Broadbridge Heath FC produced a fantastic performance to knock out Division 1 Crowborough Athletic and reach the RUR Charity Cup final last night (Tuesday).
And they did it with nine first team players missing as goals from Dean Robinson and Grant Miller put Heath through to their first ever senior cup final against either East Preston or Peacehaven & Telsc.
Bears boss Steve Painter could not hide his delight at guiding the club to their first final since they won the West Sussex County Times Challenge Cup back in the 1983-84 season.
He said: “My team were absolutely superb all game. We weren’t lucky, we were the better side and never looked like losing, we were in control for most of the match.
“I have to say Crowborough were extremely gracious in defeat, their manager came into the dressing room afterwards to say we deserved to win and good luck in the final which meant a lot.
“Considering I had so many players unavailable or injured, there were three on the bench who hadn’t player for the best part of a year, and it just shows how much ability there is in the whole squad.”
Striker Robinson was due to start on the bench having been called up from the Reserves, but a late drop-out saw him promoted to the starting XI and he made the most of his chance by cheekily putting Heath ahead.
With 20 minutes on the clock Jamal Sultan pulled the back and Robinson confidently flicked the ball between his legs and into the net.
Heath had further chances to add to their lead before the break; Jake Holmes smashed a shot straight at the keeper and Tim Martin saw a rising effort from 25 yards go just over.
Crows’ only real chance came when Heath defender Dan Attwater miscontrolled with his chest, letting Charlie Oatway in but goalkeeper James Fisher raced out and the striker missed the target.
Heath then grabbed some welcome breathing space after the break when the excellent Grant Miller charged towards goal and found the bottom corner with a low drive from 25 yards.
“Grant had a fantastic game,” Painter beamed. “Grant’s had his knockers over the years but he’s been absolutely superb for me since I signed him, his attitude’s first-class.”
Heath stopper Fisher beat away a stinging long-range effort, but it was the Painters’ side who continued to create the better openings, Jake Holmes denied when released one-on-one with the keeper and Sultan squaring when he could have finished himself.
Crows did rally for a late push, but there were huge celebrations from the Heath players at the full-time whistle, having added mid-table Crowborough to the other Division 1 scalp, Hailsham, in the first round of the competition.
The result continues what has been an excellent season so far for the club. They currently sit fifth in Division 2 having been promoted from Division 3 last season despite not finishing in the promotion places, a decision justified by last night’s result according to Painter.
“People thought I was mad when I said at the end of last season we’d be a better Division 2 side than a Division 3 side,” Painter said. “But in Division 2 teams let you play football and we’ve shown we’re a good footballing side by beating two Division 1 sides already this season.”
Painter’s side will have a tough task against either East Preston or Peacehaven, who are both well in the race for the Division 1 title, but will fancy their chances of beating any side on their day in this form.