The Weald School were crowned Under-19 Sussex Schools League Cup winners at the Sussex FA headquarters on Friday night.
They edged St. Paul’s 2-1 after extra-time to lift the cup as solo winners for the very first time.
It also provided a fitting send-off for manager Jody Healy, who, after 18 years of running the side, was taking charge of his final match.
In warm conditions and in front of a large and expectant crowd, The Weald were looking to cap off an unbeaten league season with the silverware.
The Billingshurst school had never won the competition outright, although had been shared winners once, but were confident of doing so this year.
The two sides were evenly matched in the early stages of the game, with The Weald playing their normal high intensity and high pressing game.
The first real chance of the game was when the St. Paul’s dangerous left winger cut inside and forced an outstanding save from The Weald keeper, Conor Blanchard.
The Weald counter attacked on numerous occasions with the pace of Arthur Powell keeping the St. Paul’s defence on their toes. Harry Lloyd helped control the midfield and was a constant threat. The deadline was broken when Lloyd delivered a wicked set-piece that caused chaos in the area, with Charlie Witham pouncing to put the Reds 1-0 up.
The second half started with the same energy from The Weald, but this work rate took its toll as a number of players were cramping as the half progressed.
St. Paul’s dominated possession, but could not break down the stubborn Weald back line.
The excellent Jamie Bennett offered solid protection in front of the three centre backs. The Weald were forced back as the second half drew on, relying on counter attacks and a Lloyd long-range lob that only just went over the bar.
With only seconds to go, the ball was played in to The Weald penalty area where Taylor Stevens attempted to clear the ball, but was correctly penalised for a dangerous high tackle.
The St. Paul’s centre forward, under huge pressure, dispatched the penalty to send the final to extra time.
With players from both sides running on empty, two minutes remained before the dreaded penalty shoot-out, when Heasman sprayed a 30-yard ball from the right towards substitute, Charlie Davies. He controlled the ball beautifully and clipped it past the keeper with the outside of his right foot.
It was a superb finish that sparked scenes of delight on the pitch and on the sidelines. The Weald kept their composure, until the final whistle, when the celebrations could start.
Outgoing manager Healy said: “This really was an outstanding team effort. The energy and work rate from all of my players this evening was immense.
“You could see how they were cramping up at the end of the game. Credit to St. Paul’s and the way they played. They are an excellent side.
“I am so proud of all my players. They are a credit to themselves and the school. After 18 years, this is my last year running the under-19s. It is a perfect way to go out on.”