A hat-trick by Sussex front man Demas Ramsis condemned Essex Under 16s to defeat in their final South-East Counties fixture of the season on a blustery afternoon at the home county’s Culver Road headquarters.
Ramsis pounced on two first-half defensive slips to earn the South Coast county a two-goal lead and, by the time he had completed his trio after the break, a penalty from Tom Chalmers had given Sussex a three-goal half time cushion. With two fixtures still to play, the home side’s third win of the campaign leaves the title in their own hands.
They were in the ascendency in this tie from the 19th minute as Marcus Chapman’s ball forward slipped from the grasp of Essex goalkeeper Tom Ballard and Ramsis reacted quickly to slot in the loose ball. That advantage was doubled with 25 played. Ramsis capitalised on a defensive mix-up and slotted into an empty net.
Two minutes later, Ramsis came close to his hat-trick, but his effort from a tight angle hit the near post. Nevertheless, it was 3-0 on half an hour. Essex defender Casey Lockhart was, perhaps harshly, adjudged to have fouled Chalmers in the box, but the Sussex midfielder made no mistake from the spot, dinking his kick into the middle of the goal.
Ballard then made a good save to tip Harry Cuthbert’s dipping effort over the top before also keeping out Dan Ferriara’s low drive just before the break. Then, 15 minutes into the second period, Ramsis had another chance to seal his trio but he was denied by a good save from Essex’s substitute ‘keeper, Luke Craigie.
On the hour mark, the visitors pulled a goal back in fine fashion. Kai Stephen’s long-range shot flew into the top right-hand corner to make it 3-1. Though Ramsis did finally claim the match ball on 68 minutes as he latched onto a through ball and arrowed a strike into the far bottom corner.
Essex grabbed another goal back with ten minutes remaining when Lukas Zabulionis latched onto a back pass and slotted home, but the home team held on to lift themselves into pole position for the championship.
Essex: Tom Ballard (Brentwood Town), Billy Harrison (Concord Rangers), Samuel Bayon (Essex Schools), Casey Lockhart (Buckhurst Hill), Ted Turnham (Brentwood Town), Lukas Zabulionis (AFC Hornchurch), Tommy Ainsworth (Essex Minors [Hornchurch]), Bradley Green (AFC Hornchurch), Josh Ambrose (Braintree Town), Shane Temple (Braintree Town), Myles Onu (Ilford). Substitutes: Kai Stephen (Ilford), Luke Craigie (Witham Town), Presanthe Paul (Billericay Town), Matt Newberry (Ilford).
Sussex: Oscar Lockyer (Hastings United), Marcus Chapman (Three Bridges), Dylan Little (Whitehawk), Tegan Freeman (Lewes), Joe Marchant (ASC Strikers), Harry Cuthbert (Whitehawk), Dan Ferriara (East Grinstead), Tom Chalmers (Hastings United), Demas Ramsis (Whitehawk), Ollie Munt (Whitehawk), Jay Popham (Lewes). Substitutes (repeated): Mitch Howens (Lewes), Conrad Honore (Lewes), Sean McSwinney (Whitehawk), Sam Wright (Whitehawk).
Referee: James Kerten.
Assistant Referees: Mervyn Coomber and Gary Manville-Dickens.
Fourth Official: Pablo Aguilar.