AFC Varndeanians F.C.

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Isuzu UK FA Vase

Jersey Bulls

Saturday August 27, 2022, 12:00 pm

Withdean Stadium

Isuzu UK FA Vase

Match Report

The club was formed as Old Varndeanians in 1929 when the Secondary Old Boys Football Club (1920), which was primarily former pupils of Varndean School in Brighton, was renamed and decided only to accept former Varndeanians. They competed in the Brighton and Hove District League. Re-established in 1946 and playing at Preston Park, they gained promotion to the Senior Division in 1952.

The club transferred their allegiance to the Sussex County League in 1956. They were thrice runners-up in Division 2 before winning the division in 1960, and gaining promotion, while playing at Varndean School. The club rules were loosened at this time to allow brothers and sons of former pupils to play for the club.

After finishing bottom in 1962, they were relegated back to Division 2 where they remained until leaving the league in 1973 due to ground restrictions. The club re-joined the Brighton League, playing at Patcham Place, in the Premier Division, which they won on four occasions and were runners-up on another six whilst moving to Coral Stadium. They transferred to the Mid Sussex League in 2003, now playing at Brighton University on 3G, winning the Premier Division three times in six seasons.

In 2015, under the management of Ryan Gayler, the V’s adopted their present name A.F.C. Varndeanians, and moved to Withdean. The original playing fields there were turned into a lawn tennis club in 1936 which hosted the Davis Cup tie between Great Britain and New Zealand in 1939. Later innovations included a zoo and miniature railway. In 1955 it was re-opened as the Brighton Sports Arena with a new athletics track. The arena was upgraded over the years, and in 1980 Steve Ovett, whose home track it was, opened the all-weather facility. In 1999 it became the “temporary” (until 2011) home of Brighton & Hove Albion. Since the club moved out the temporary seating has been removed with only the original 1,300 seater North Stand remaining.

2015 was the year A.F.C. Varndeanians were accepted into the Southern Combination league (the renamed Sussex County League) and in his first season, Gayler guided them to the league title and promotion at the first attempt.

They finished bottom of the 18 teams in Division 1 in their first season, but were not relegated, improving to 14th in 2018 and 3rd in 2019. They were lying 2nd in the abandoned 2020 season having only lost one league match and in 2021, again having only lost one league match, they were in 8th place but with games in hand when the curtailment came. Like Jersey they were promoted on the basis of their combined record over the two abandoned seasons.

Life was more difficult in the Premier Division, finishing 18th of the 20 teams last season. Eligible for the Vase since 2018-19, they have yet to progress beyond the qualifying rounds and in the F.A. Cup they defeated Crowborough Athletic and Guildford City in their first season in 2019-20 but have fallen at the first hurdle since then.

This season they opened with a 0-4 loss at A.F.C. Uckfield Town before going out of the F.A. Cup 0-1 at home to Hythe Town. They then scored their first goals, gaining their first points, with a 2-0 win at Roffey before coming back from 0-2 to draw with Little Common 2-2 in their home match at Withdean Stadium in front of 80.

Jersey took over a strong squad, all of whom have been regular starters in the league matches so far this season. They named an unchanged starting side from that which had beaten Banstead, thought to be only the second time the Bulls have done this.

Varndeanians made three changes to the side that drew with Little Common, with skipper Omar Bukleb, Jake Warde and Jack De Leiburne, who were all used substitutes that day, coming into the starting line-up in place of Kyle Woolven, Jeong-Min Choi and Oscar Pinnock. The first two were amongst the six substitutes along with Finley Aghinotri, Marley Bigg, George Bunch and Justin Jones, only three of whom could be used.

On a warm afternoon (21⁰C) with the sun breaking through the parkland trees beyond the far side of the pitch Jersey kicked off attacking the railway end on a well grassed and green pitch, unlike the one at Banstead. If anything, the grass was too long but that was probably deliberate to protect the surface during the lengthy hot spell.

After six minutes Kamen Nafkha almost scored his first Jersey goal. Letting fly from 18 yards, his cross shot just flew over the right angle. Within seconds Jay Giles pumped a long ball forward looking for Lorne Bickley. Defender Matt Gunn overdid his header back to ‘keeper Jordan Hawkins, who only just managed to claw it away, as well as preventing the marauding Bickley capitalising on the subsequent loose ball. Gunn was not to be denied though!

It was soon third time lucky as a long ball forward from James Queree was adroitly controlled on his chest by Frank Tobin on the right sideline. His skill enabled him to beat his opposite number and advance to the corner of the box where he rolled the ball across. It looked to be aimed for Francis Lekimamati but Sol Solomon must have called for it as he hit it straight into the bottom right corner.

Fifteen minutes later it was almost two. Solomon took a quick free kick which released Ruben Mendes on the left. His cross was slightly overrun by Bickley which resulted in his hooked volley from five yards out cannoning back off the bar.

Solomon then set up Adam Trotter with a volleying opportunity but rather than go for a spectacular shot he looked to play a cushioned pass to Bickley which was snuffed out by the covering defenders.

Bickley did get on the score sheet ten minutes before the interval. A skilful one-two with Mendes ended up with a nicely weighted pass from Mendes down the left channel. Bickley ran on to it and tucked away the chance from 15 yards.

Five minutes later it was three. Mendes played the ball inside to Solomon who was brought down by opposition skipper Omar Bukleb. Bukleb consequently received the only caution of the match in a game played in good spirit throughout.

Solomon picked himself up, dusted himself down and from twenty-five yards curled the resultant free-kick into the bottom left corner.

There was a chance for a fourth just before the break when Tobin flighted a tempting cross to Bickley at the far post. The striker did not get a good contact and from six yards out it slid just wide of the left post.

The commanding first half enabled Queree to hand over the captain’s armband to Giles with Sammy Sutcliffe coming on for the second half. The opposition had not yet had a single shot, having been thwarted by Duncan Brooker’s flag on the few occasions they had threatened to make any advance.

Mendes was again at the heart of the action five minutes after the break. His pull back from the right byline fell to Solomon a dozen yards out but was scuffed wide of the left post and his hat trick opportunity went begging.

Before the hour Trotter made a break down the right and with a precise pass inside, put Mendes in space. He advanced to the edge of box but his cross shot was palmed away by Hawkins for a corner.

Hawkins was called on again just after the hour when Giles put Solomon in from a narrow angle on the left only to have his low shot parried away. This was to be the last action for the goal scorers, Bickley and Solomon, as they were replaced by Jake Prince and Fraser Barlow respectively.

During this period the Varndeanians made their own changes, and with Jersey having taken their foot off the gas, they started to make some headway. Their first shot came after 68 minutes and ten minutes later, substitute Kyle Woolven on the left forced a good save from Pierce Roche who tipped away his rising cross shot for a corner.

However, it was Jersey who extended their lead. Playmaker Mendes was once again instrumental. He put Giles away on the left whose low cross along the face of the goal was pushed away by Hawkins onto his covering defender Gunn. The defender attempted to hook the ball away but failed to get his body weight transferred and only managed to smash the ball into the opposite corner for an own goal.

With five minutes to go Prince latched on to a long ball forward from Lekimamati but a bobble on the uneven ground in the box caused his powerful shot from eight yards to clear the top left angle.

Varndeanians gained some consolation with the goal of the game two minutes into added time.

Ollie Stevenson played a ball forward which was miscontrolled by Tobin. Mark Goldson seized on the loose ball on the left without suggesting imminent danger. However, he advanced and cut inside before launching his cross shot from twenty-five yards out. It flew into the top right corner just that little bit higher than Woolven’s earlier attempt so Roche was unable to repeat his earlier save to keep his clean sheet.

A.F.C. Varndeanians 1 (Mark Goldson 90+2), Jersey Bulls 4 (Sol Solomon (2) 7 & 39, Lorne Bickley 34, Matt Gunn own goal 82)

Attendance – 125 (The Brighton team averaged 56 for their league games last season with a low of 16 and a high of 130)

Programme – 8pp, £1

A.F.C. Varndeanians – Jordan Hawkins, Owen Benfell, Alfie Proto-Gates, Ollie Stevenson, Omar Bukleb (c), Matthew Gunn, Finley Bigg, Jake Warde, Jack De Leiburne, Mark Goldson, Alex Rainford.
Substitutes – 12 Kyle Woolven (for De Leiburne 62), 14. Finley Aghinotri (for Warde 56), 15. Marley Bigg (for Benfell 56), 16. George Burch (not used), 17. Jeong-Min Choi (not used), 18. Justin Jones (not used)

Red/Black/Black; GK All Orange

Ryan Gayler (Manager), Bradley Watts (Coach)

Jersey Bulls – Pierce Roche, Frank Tobin, Jay Giles (vc), James Queree (c), Harry Curtis, Kamen Nafkha, Francis Lekimamati, Adam Trotter, Lorne Bickley, Ruben Mendes, Sol Solomon

Substitutes – 1. Richard Hebert (GK) (not used), 12. Sammy Sutcliffe (for Queree 46), 14. Joe Kilshaw (not used), 15. Jake Prince (for Bickley 62), 16. Fraser Barlow (for Solomon 62)

White/Black/White; GK All Green (no. 21)

Gary Freeman (Manager), Kevan Nelson (Assistant), Richard Hebert (GK Coach)

A.F.C. Varndeanians (4-4-2 R to L) 1; 6-5-3-2; 11-8-4-7; 10-9
Jersey Bulls (4-1-4-1 R to L) 21; 2-4-5-3; 6; 7-8-10-11; 9

Referee – Thomas Price (Henfield)

Assistants – Duncan Brooker (Shoreham) on the dug-out side. Sam Rumble (Horsham) on the grandstand side.

Caution – Bukleb (AFCV) 38

Corners – A.F.C. Varndeanians (0) 1; Jersey Bulls (2) 4

Player of the Match Award – Sol Solomon (JB)


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