Although many deride the League Cup, both Leatherhead and Worthing put on an entertaining affair, with plenty of endeavour on show.
The Tanners took to the field with one of last season’s heroes, Zaki Oualah in goal, along with fellow returnees, D’Sean Theobalds and Tommy Cooney.
Worthing’s changes from Saturday’s FA Cup exertions at Faversham, included first competitive starts for Ollie Pearce and Joe Clarke, as Ricky Aguiar kept his spot in place of the injured Jazz Rance and Rhyle Ovenden wore number eight. Amongst the subs were Academy boys, Luca Cocoracchio, Jasper Pattenden and Hayden Skerry, all “fresh” from thrashing their Tooting & Mitcham counterparts 15-0 in the afternoon. Pattenden notching a hat-trick and Skerry coming off the bench to grab four.
It took only six minutes for the opening chance to be created and Leatherhead were overly hospitable in orchestrating it. Under-21 alumni, Andy Blake tried to shepherd the ball out of play for a goal kick but was robbed by James Crane, who found a waiting Jesse Starkey but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
The next attempt started with David Ajiboye in the centre circle, he took the play forward before spreading it out wide to Starkey on the left, who in turn slipped in Ollie Pearce, whose effort flashed wide across the face of goal.
Pearce nearly turned provider next, when his ball in from the left picked out Ricky Aguiar but, his shot resulted in a comfortable save for Oualah.
As the first half reached the midway point, James Crane’s delivery from the same side was dummied by Aguiar, only for Pearce’s effort to lack power. This was followed minutes later by a powerful, low drive stinging the palms of Oualah as he got down well to save at his near post.
As half-time approached, Ollie came sliding in to try and get on the end of Ajiboye’s ball in from the right after Aarran Racine had taken a quick free-kick, only to see it go wide of the far post.
Lucas then had one of his “Alisson moments” when he was sold short by Will Mile’s back-pass and, despite initially denying Antonio Dembele, Dartford loanee, Alfie Cue was left with a shooting opportunity that he couldn’t quite take full advantage of.
Play rapidly switched to the other end, where Ajiboye nearly caught out Oualah, who had to be alert to prevent the ball sneaking into his nearside top corner.
The half ended with Cue unable to contort his neck like Inspector Gadget and seriously threaten Covolan’s goal, while Captain, Racine was denied by the offside flag in stoppage time.
The early stages of the second half saw Theobalds fire fractionally wide from the edge of the area and Ajiboye rather snatch at a chance to break the deadlock then, after making his way along the by-line, he was denied by Oualah’s block at the near post.
The home side often looked dangerous going forward and Cue was at the heart of a lot of their best moves. One in particular, shortly after the hour mark, resulted in a slide-rule pass to Reece Deakin who, once he’d cut inside his marker, elected to shoot but sliced his attempt straight into the grateful arms of Covolan.
Ajiboye was just as prominent for the visitors and he, again, found Starkey out on the left who proceeded to fizz in a cross to Aguiar, who couldn’t quite adjust his body and hooked the ball over the bar.
Cue (literally) a riposte from the men in green, as the ball broke to substitute, Travis Gregory and, after evading one challenge, he simply gave Lucas another comfortable catch.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, it looked like Leatherhead would snatch victory when Cue was clean through, only for him to be denied by a superb, last-ditch tackle from Racine.
Entering the final ten and the busy Cue turned and fired wide from just outside the box, before John Ufuah missed the top corner by inches with a well-hit drive.
As most people’s thoughts were turning towards the dreaded penalty shootout, David Ajiboye danced his way through The Tanners defence and found the bottom corner, much to the relief of the travelling hoards and, no doubt, (Head Groundsman) Dave Blaszkowski.
One last hope for The Greens came in the final minute of normal time, as Oualah’s long clearance was headed out by Racine but only as far as the almost appropriately named, Crossley Lema. Sadly, his long-range effort only endangered the marine life of the River Mole.