Despite twelve of Worthing's fourteen players being teenagers, the home team still eased to an emphatic victory over their high-profile visitors.
With only one famous owner present amongst an impressive pre-season crowd of over four hundred, it was an unfamiliar looking home side that romped to a six-nil hammering of an equally unfamiliar looking line-up from the reigning National League North Champions.
As well as the conveyor belt of young talent coming through the Woodside Road ranks showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, there were further positives, with both Will Miles and Rhyle Ovenden getting a full ninety minutes under their belts for the first time since last August and November respectively. Both got on the scoresheet, too.
Worthing came out of the blocks quickly, Joe Clarke charging down an attempted clearance by George Neane in the Salford goal and playing the ball straight back in for a waiting Josh Gould. The young forward couldn’t keep his shot down though and it sailed harmlessly over the bar.
The next effort was worth the entry fee alone. Captain and regular left-back, Joel Colbran, showed his attacking instincts when he found himself free just outside the left-hand corner of the penalty area. With one look at goal, he effortlessly curled home an absolute beauty into Neane’s top corner, leaving the Ammies custodian clutching at thin air, to open the scoring.
Neane nearly handed the home team a second, when he rushed out of his goal to meet Jazz Rance and Jasper Pattenden lifted the ball back over him but he was able to reach around and flick it far enough away from danger to be able to pounce on it safely a second time.
The next goal wasn’t long in coming and it was Neane involved again, as this time he brought down Gould near the byline for a clear penalty. Rhyle Ovenden, two days short of his twentieth birthday, stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way form the spot as Worthing doubled their advantage with just seven minutes on the clock.
Clarke then had two chances in quick succession. Firstly, heading over from Ovenden’s free-kick and then being denied by Neane, before Will Miles’ first-time finish from another Ovenden delivery saw him notch his first goal for his new club.
A fine attacking move saw Rance find Mthunzi who in turn played a defence-splitting pass to Gould but his effort went wide and Salford tried to get back in the game through their tall number nine, Anointed Chukwu. His attempt was blocked by a strong home defence with Aaron Relf then going airborne as he pulled off a wonderful save to deny Zack Woodcock.
With half-time looming on the horizon, a corner for the men from the North-West resulted in Rance leading a counter-attack with a lung-busting run which took him from the edge of his own “D” to virtually the corresponding area of the pitch at the other end, where he played a neat one-two with Gould before seeing his low cross-shot tipped around the post by Neane. The “veteran” was then denied by the offside flag a few minutes later.
The final chance of an enthralling forty-five minutes went to the visitors, as Woodcock’s cross was touched onto the upright by Manny Ogunrinde.
It was Rance who tested the reflexes of Neane in the early stages of the second period, as he forced him into another low save down at his near post, before Joe Clarke came agonisingly close to making it four while both Will Sheppard and Sam Adetiuye, who headed a free-kick inches wide, went close in the first few minutes of the half for Salford. Clarke then got his long-awaited but much deserved goal, emphatically powering home from inside the six-yard box. The assist once again provided by a set-piece delivery from Rhyle Ovenden.
Adam Hinshelwood sent on all three of his substitutes at the same time, with one of them, George Brittain, making an immediate impact when he drove into the area from the right and presented Gouldwith an easy tap-in.
The flow of the game was interrupted somewhat by a series of replacements from the bench for The Ammies but it was Worthing who threatened next with goalscorer Gould giving Neane the simplest of catches.
As the evening’s entertainment entered it’s latter stages, the ebullient Ovenden, who had clearly had three Weetabix for breakfast that morning, then proceeded to launch an exocet missile of a free-kick, from at least thirty-yards out, into the top-corner to complete the scoring.
There was still time for Mthunzi to make room on the edge of the area and fire a shot straight into the grateful hands of Neane and for a late intervention by Miles to preserve the clean sheet.