A large crowd of more than 200 were kept entertained as Horsham FC’s Under-18s fought out a thrilling John Ullmann Cup Final with Dartford on Monday night.
This is the third year the young Hornets have been invited to participate in The Kent Youth League competition, a prestigious trophy that includes the youth sides of Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace among its former winners, and the two sides produced a contest worthy of the occasion.
Dartford have swept all before them this season, and were aiming to make it a treble success after winning the league and county cups, but Horsham matched their opponents throughout a goalless first half in which Lewis Blaney put in an assured display in goal.
Jake Legrange went close to adding to his season’s tally of 33 goals when he crashed a shot against the crossbar on 56 minutes but it was the Darts who made the breakthrough when Becka Kah-Dembele beat Blaney with a superb left foot strike, 12 minutes from time.
But Horsham refused to be beaten and, in stoppage time, Adam Wicking’s header sent the match into extra-time to the delight of the large travelling support.
Brima Daramy restored the Kent side’s lead five minutes after the restart but it was another header, this time from Andrew Roberts, that restored parity once again only for Osita Isichei to break Horsham hearts with the winning goal, two minutes from time with the contest looking set to be decided on penalties.
Ken Boothe, chief executive of the Kent Youth League said: “The game was everything that is good about youth football at this level.
“Two excellent sides, a thoroughly deserved last minute equaliser from Horsham to take the game into extra-time, and a last minute winner in extra-time. It was a real classic and I cannot speak highly enough of the conduct of the whole Horsham side.
Horsham FC chairman Kevin Borrett added: “The players were a real credit to Horsham Football Club and I was extremely proud of the way they played and conducted themselves.
“They are the future of our club and I’m looking forward to seeing many of them in a first team shirt in the next few seasons.”