A WOMAN who accused a professional footballer of rape tried to retract her claim before going to court, a jury heard.

The woman tried to pull her allegation twice before going to trial, Brighton Crown Court was told yesterday.

The 20-year-old claimed Blackpool FC striker Beryly Lubala attacked her after she went to his house in Horsham to watch Netflix.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was 18 when she met the footballer.

During cross-examination she sobbed as she repeatedly denied inventing the rape.

"I'm not a liar," the woman said.

"I wouldn't have put myself through two and a half years of trauma if I had just regretted something.

"I regretted going because I now have to deal with this for the rest of my life, but I didn't consent."

When asked about a Snapchat selfie she took in the player's bedroom, the woman insisted she took it before the incident.

She confirmed she tried to withdraw her evidence and back out of the prosecution a year before trial.

Asked by Richard Hearnden, prosecuting, why she tried to back out of the trial, the woman said: "I have a different life now.

"I have a girlfriend and a career and I thought this would put me ten steps back and it has."

The woman was quizzed about her previous meetings with the player.

She admitted going up to his room at a hotel in Crawley within half an hour of meeting him for the first time.

They had sex and she stayed overnight, the court heard.

The jury were told how she met and had sex with him a second time before beginning a relationship with a woman.

Jurors heard text message exchanges between them where the woman accused the player of only ever contacting her for a "booty call".

She denied a defence suggestion she wanted a relationship with the player.

"He said he didn't want sex and I believed him," she said.

Lubala denies raping the young woman at his home on September 13, 2019.

Julia Smart QC, defending, suggested she mulled over what had happened with Lubala, then aged 21, and regretted having sex with him.

Ms Smart told the woman: "I'm going to suggest everything that happened in that bedroom was entirely with your consent and, in fact, at your instigation and you changed your mind."

The trial, which has been delayed by Covid, continues.