Essex Under 18s were left ruing a late penalty miss as they were edged out by a single goal in their South-East Counties Championship opener in Lancing.
Sam Wright’s 70th-minute strike proved to be enough to seal the three points for the South Coast hosts, but Sussex were also indebted to their goalkeeper, Taylor Seymour, who saved Sultan Sarni’s stoppage time spot kick.
Early openings went the way of the home side as Conrad Honore saw his low effort smothered by Essex ‘keeper Jack Allan then Jay Popham teed-up Honore again, whose close-range shot was blocked by the Essex stopper.
Later on, Essex’s Nathan Putt saw his free kick deflected wide and Tom Duffy flicked a header wide from Jimi Reynolds’ corner. Visiting ‘keeper Allan then made a good save to tip over from Fin Stevens before, on the stroke of half time, Sussex’s Demas Ramsis turned and curled just wide.
Essex’s Jess Norey got himself through on goal shortly after the restart, but he dragged his shot just beyond the far post. As the game began to swing both ways, Essex’s Allan made a smart stop to deny Ramsis from close range before Sussex ‘keeper Seymour was called into action.
He got down low to his right to keep out Rashaad Ogun’s effort. Essex substitute Sarni soon made an immediate impact as his first touch brought a good reflex save from Seymour again.
Sussex came closest when a slightly mis-hit right-flank cross bounced off a post but, within a minute, they had the lead. A shot from the right was pushed away by Allan, but only as far as Wright, who was on-hand to score from an acute angle.
The home side came close to sealing the contest with three minutes remaining, Adam Bateman bringing a good save from Allan before the offside flag scuppered the rebound. Then, two minutes into added time, Essex were thrown a final opportunity.
Ogun burst into the penalty area and, after nudging the ball beyond Seymour, he was brought down by the custodian. However, Seymour redeemed himself in perfect fashion as he kept out Sarni’s penalty to preserve his side’s victory.
Essex: Jack Allan (Great Wakering Rovers), Nathan Putt (Basildon United), Billy Boag (Concord Rangers), Tom Duffy (Hornchurch), Sam Richardson (Bowers & Pitsea), Louis Young (Basildon United), Rashaad Ogun (Romford), Jess Norey (Barking Abbey School), Callum Newson (Barking Abbey School), Teejay Chiororo (Bowers & Pitsea), Jimi Reynolds (Aveley). Substitutes (repeated): Jack Glennister (Hornchurch), Sidney Morgan (Shenfield School), James Heggarty (Hornchurch), Sultan Sarni (USP [Palmer’s Campus]), Lukas Zabulionis (Dagenham & Redbridge).
Sussex: Taylor Seymour (Lewes), Shane Harper (Lewes), James Beresford (Lewes), Tegan Freeman (Lewes), Max Blencowe (Lewes), Dan Blackmore (Eastbourne Borough), Brad Santos (Lewes), Fin Stevens (Worthing), Damas Ramsis (Whitehawk), Jay Popham (Lewes), Conrad Honore (Lewes). Substitutes (repeated): Reggie Ward (Worthing), Sam Wright (Whitehawk), Matt Astle (Eastbourne Borough), Adam Bateman (Eastbourne Borough).
Referee: Adam Parry.
Assistant Referees: Barry Myers and Owen Radley.
Fourth Official: Pablo Aguilar.