Worthing made it three from three as they returned to the top of The Bostik Premier after a hard-fought win over a spirited Harlow Town, at The McCullochs Arena.
- Aguiar (25')
- Ajiboye (90')
The side from the South Coast were forced into one change from the team that, briefly, sat in first place on Monday night, with 2017-18’s Manager’s Player of the Year, Joel Colbran making his first appearance of the current campaign, while Summer signing, Will Miles made a matchday squad as he continues his comeback from long-term injury.
Despite kick-off being delayed by fifteen minutes due to huge congestion on the motorway, it was the visitors who almost struck the first blow, when David Ajiboye blazed over the bar from a Callum Kealy cross after only four minutes.
With a little over five minutes gone, it was a case of role-reversal, with Ajiboye receiving Lucas Covolan’s clearance on the halfway line and turning to make his way towards the penalty area. His subsequent pass to Kealy though, only resulted in a weak left foot shot from the former Lewes frontman.
It then became the turn of the home side to try their luck in breaking the deadlock, as Jason Raad weaved his way through on the edge of the box but couldn’t quite get his final effort on target. Followed by Hector Kyprianou being denied by a combination of Covolan and Sam Rents, who were forced to clear off the line to keep the game goalless.
Ajiboye was at the centre of another promising move for the men in blue and grey – rumours our next away kit will be a little sequined number are unconfirmed at this stage – but his link-up with Colbran and Danny Barker ended with nothing more than a potentially awkward bounce, from Barker’s drive, for a relieved Josh Bexon in the home goal. While Andre McCollin went close at the other end.
The “ to me, to you “ nature of the opening forty five minutes was finally broken by Kealy’s burst down the left and Ricky Aguiar tucking home from close range, with a little over twenty minutes to go.
Before Harlow were dramatically reduced to ten men, when the pace of Ajiboye proved too much for Paul Rodgers, as the experienced centre-half clattered into the visiting forward to earn himself a straight red card from referee, Neil West.
Jesse Starkey troubled the corner flag more than he did the goal and then got his name taken – but only yellow on this occasion – as he gave away a dangerous looking free-kick, a matter of centimetres outside the box, in the last few minutes of the half. Fortunately, nothing was to come from this set-piece as Worthing took a narrow lead into the interval.
The visitors, looking for their first win at Harlow’s “new” ground tested the reflexes of Bexon twice in ten minutes at the start of the second half. After Ajiboye stung the palms of the Southend United loanee in the opening seconds it became the turn of his strike partner, Kealy to engineer a chance for himself, only to find the Hawks number one in equally fine form as he saved Rick Stewart style. (Roy of the Rovers, ask your parents,)
Just past the hour mark, Fabion Simms headed a great chance over the bar, from a Charlie Edwards cross, as the home team continued to look threatening. With the temporary right-back having also put McCollin in the clear, from a lovely ball over the top, moments earlier. Hesitancy proving to be his downfall as he turned back in search of support and the chance went begging.
It was the visitors, however, who nearly put the gloss on an unconvincing second half display, when Ajiboye charged through the middle and, as the ‘keeper came out, the rebound fell kindly for him but, he was forced wide and his shot rolled agonisingly past the far post.
Festus Lori, who had only recently entered the fray, gave Covolan his only real save of the second period in the last quarter of the game, as the Brazilian was forced to tip his angled drive over the bar but, bizarrely, Mr. West agreed with his assistant and awarded a goal-kick instead of the anticipated corner.
Thoughts then turned to what offers the neighbouring poundworld might have in store, until someone pointed out that it was merely a massive warehouse and not actual shop that dominated the far end of the ground. (As well as, helpfully, informing us that “everything was a pound. “ Thank you, Sherlock.)
The last twenty minutes continued to be summed up, from a Worthing point of view at least, by Alex Parson’s cross dropping straight into the hands of Bexon and substitute, Darren Budd shanking his shot so far wide, that it went out for a throw-in.
Until a third successive victory was eventually assured by a rare injection of excitement from the bench, in the form of Jazz Rance. As he beat his man, for a second time, on the left touchline and made his way into the area, he passed to a waiting Budd who, unselfishly, laid the ball off to his right and Ajiboye was there to tap home into an unguarded net.