LITTLEHAMPTON Football Club booked their place in the final of the County League Division 2 Cup last night (Wednesday, February 22) with a 2-1 win over Dorking Wanderers as they edged a fierce encounter at Gorings Mead.
An 80th-minute penalty from left-back Dan Kempson sent Golds through and they will now face either local rivals East Preston or Hailsham in the final on Good Friday.
Golds had to pick themselves up in the second half as Dorking, who were hardly in the game in the first half, converted a penalty of their own on the stroke of half-time to level things, after Danny Hand’s third-minute opener.
Golds boss Mark Bennett admitted his side were the underdogs going into the clash but said he was proud of his young side.
He said: “We battled so well and, after a bad result on Saturday, we responded well.
“The final is something to look forward to and I am so proud of the boys, especially after conceding right on half-time. It is always hard to lift yourselves after something like that.
“It was a real team performance, obviously little Dan Kempson, who is only 16, stood out with his penalty as there can be a lot of pressure on moments like that.
“We don’t mind who we get in the final as the lads are just chuffed to bits to be there.”
Golds were ahead before Dorking had even realised the game had begun as Kempson took a quick throw and then put in a pin-point cross to the back post which Hand ran onto and headed goal wards.
Goalkeeper Josh Lennie produced a fine one-handed save, but Hand got to the rebound first and volleyed home from close range.
Golds kept up the pressure, with Dorking giving away countless free kicks as they appeared surprised by Littlehampton’s pacy and attacking football.
Golds’ Jamie Atterwell’s free kick took a deflection when looking goalbound and Jason Jarvis soon had the ball in the net, when he turned in a flicked-on free kick, but was offside.
Despite the rain, Jon Hendrick in the Littlehampton goal, looked every inch his solid self and claimed anything the Surrey side put into the box. He had his defenders to thank for his lack of involvement as they threw their bodies at every Dorking attack and closed the ball superbly.
Hendrick’s first real save of note was on 32 minutes as he pushed over Craig Vernon’s header from a corner, which was their first real effort on target.
But, with a minute left to play of the half, Jamie Wrigley clattered a Dorking forward as the ball ran across him in the box and, despite his pleas that he won the ball, referee Chris White pointed straight to the spot - from where Chris Williams finished with aplomb to give his side a lifeline after having been outplayed.
Dorking clearly came out after the break with some choice words ringing in their ears and looked a different side.
Jerome Beckles should have done better with his effort when well placed on the edge of the area after Golds stood off, but Hendrick pushed his tame effort wide.
On 58 minutes came a strange sequence of events, which saw Dorking go close to taking the lead. A high foot in the area by Jamie Wrigley on Vernon saw the Dorking defender go down, despite looking as though he had not been touched and, despite the Surrey side’s claims for a penalty, a drop ball was awarded.
Dorking won the ball and it fell to Beckles just inside the area, but his curling effort, which looked to everyone as though it was dropping in, hit the post.
Then, 10 minutes later, it took a last-ditch block to keep Dorking out as Golds skipper Ross McKay got in the way of a goalbound effort after a goalmouth scramble.
Things became fractious from then on, in which threatened to disrupt an entertaining clash.
Both sides tested the opposition goalkeeper but they were equal to what was thrown at them until with 10 minutes left, Hand was felled on the byline in the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot a second time.
Kempson stepped up to drive home into the bottom right-hand corner to give Golds a foot-hold in the final.
As Dorking threw men forward, things opened up more for Golds and a good move saw Michael Hendrick go through, but a defender was back well to clear, before deep into injury time Hand was picked out one-on-one at the far post but drove wide.
That was not to matter, however, as after more than five minutes of injury time, the referee blew the final whistle, to spark wild celebrations from the young Golds side.
GOLDS: J.Hendrick; Goff, Bibb, McKay, Kempson; D.Hand, A.Wrigley, J.Wrigley, M.Hendrick, Atterwell; Jarvis. Subs: Manning, Kew, Gaskin, Peters, Stocker.