It was a tight fit as Wimborne and Worthing shared eight goals and hit each other’s crossbar in a topsy-turvy, pre-season encounter at The Cuthbury.
An experienced line-up took to the pitch with a debut given to new loan signing, Tom McGill in goal, a second debut to former Brighton youngster, David Ajiboye, up front and a welcome return at the back for last season’s Player’s Player of the Year, Alfie Young. Along with a first outing in several months for Rhyle Ovenden.
A strong wind made things interesting along with a couple of short, sharp bursts of what I believe is called “rain”. It was during the first precipitation of the afternoon that the home side took an early lead, when Toby Holmes drilled his shot across the ‘keeper and into the opposite top corner, after just five minutes. The lead didn’t last long though, as David Ajiboye showed some neat footwork inside the area, before flicking an effort with the outside of his right foot, low past Magpies No.1, Gerard Benfield. It was nearly advantage Reds, as Callum Kealy almost found the top corner but Benfield pulled off a good save. The two teams then, kindly, gave us all ten minutes to get our collective breath back before Town Captain and former Bournemouth midfielder, James Stokoe, sliced a cross into his own net to hand the visitors a 1-2 lead which, unsurprisingly, only lasted a few more minutes. Holmes – scorer of an extraordinary sixty goals in fifty appearances last season – made it 2-2 as Luke Burbridge, played a lovely pass into him which Holmes took round McGill and slotted home from a tight angle. He had a chance to complete a first-half hat-trick less than a minute later but this time found the hands of the opposing net-minder. This coming after James Crane came nearest to getting his head on a Jesse Starkey corner and, nobody was able to even get that close when Alex Parson’s flag-kick flashed across the face of Wimborne’s goal.
Ten minutes before the break and it was the newly-promoted Towners who created the next chance, as a slide-rule pass from Jack Lovell was missed by Ross Edwards which sent dangerman, Holmes bursting through but, a combination of an Alfie Young tackle and the quick reactions of McGill saw the danger eventually cleared. It wasn’t long, however before Holmes completed his hat-trick, in the opening thirty-eight minutes, with a carbon copy of his second goal. Worthing had the final say of the half though, when a neat 1-2 down the left between Starkey and Crane saw the latter’s cross flicked on by Kealy but Ajiboye couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet and he was denied by the crossbar.
After some light refreshment/a lie down, the second period kicked-off with Lovell attempting to get his name on the score sheet but Joel Colbran held him off which allowed McGill to come out and collect. He wasn’t kept quiet for long though, as six minutes later he made room inside the area and fired low past the ‘keeper. His next effort, seconds later, was off target before Conal Morrison handed the visitors the chance to level the scores again at 3-3 when he brought down Alex Parsons. Sadly, the chance went begging as Parsons smacked his spot-kick against the bar and he was nearly made to pay for that miss but, somehow, after dinking the ball over the Reds custodian, Holmes headed wide of an unguarded net.
The next goal almost came from the unlikeliest of sources when a huge, wind-assisted clearance from Benfield bounced up and over McGill, who could only watch in horror and then relief as the crossbar came to his rescue. The usual multitude of changes then started and one of those newly introduced from the bench, Ricky Aguiar forced Benfield to save low down at his near post, with Parsons unable to knock home the rebound and the ball was scrambled to safety.
It wasn’t long after that near miss that Callum Kealy powered his way down the inside left channel and rifled home his second and Worthing’s third of the afternoon, to finally make it 3-3. Wimborne tried to regain the lead when substitute, Rhys Owen was fouled by Will Miles just outside the area and Stefan Penny’s free-kick came off the wall at the expense of a corner. The Assistants flag was raised for an offside that saw that particular attack come to an end from the subsequent set-piece.
As with the first-half, it was the men from West Sussex who had the final say on proceedings with Matt Boiling nut-megging his marker as he sent Aguiar racing away down the right. He in turn slipped the ball inside to Kealy who fizzed his low effort across the despairing dive of Benfield and into the far side of the goal, with two minutes left to play.
WIMBORNE TOWN: 1 Benfield 2 Ben Walker (16 Josh Hall 59’) 3 Morrison 4 Penny 5 Jordan Lee 6 Louis Kellaway 7 Stokoe © (12 Owen 67’) 8 Curtis Young (17 Luke Holmes 59’) 9 Toby Holmes (14 Aiden Shepard 74’) 10 Burbridge (15 Robinson Okumu 83’) 11 Lovell Not Used – 13 Dave Walsh
WORTHING: 1 McGill (13 Covolan 62’) 2 Colbran (18 Miles 62’) 3 Crane 4 Clarke (21 Aguiar 59’) 5 Barker (14 Boiling 66’) 6 Young (VC) 7 Parsons (17 Gayler 69’) 8 Edwards © ( 20 Ovenden 61’) 9 Kealy 10 Ajiboye (15 Budd 65’) 11 Starkey
GOALS – T. Holmes 5’ 29’ 38’ Lovell 52’ Ajiboye 9’ Kealy 65’ 88’ Stokoe 22’ o.g.