With their penchant for never doing things the easy way, Worthing were thankful for the goalkeeping heroics of Joe Clarke, as he kept the hosts at bay after regular custodian, Lucas Covolan suffered a broken arm, with fifteen minutes to go.
While the injury to our colourful ‘keeper is obviously not good, Adam did, at least, see Deputy, Aarran Racine make his return to the starting line-up, with Will Miles serving a one-match ban, as Ollie Pearce took the place of the cup-tied Zack Newton and Ricky Aguiar and Jesse Starkey were added to the bench. Clarke also started the game, after his midweek heroics.
The first half was more a case of finding the best place to keep out of the wind and rain, as this cup-tie was played in atrocious conditions.
Trying to find any significant, or even insignificant chances to mention, became as hard as the driving rain, particularly in the opening forty-five minutes.
Joel Colbran cleared the crossbar with a header, after a succession of corners, with Racine also unable to hit the target as Great Western, South West and Southern train services were threatened with more disruption than usual.
Lloyd Rowlatt’s weak effort followed by Ollie Pearce’s timid daisy-cutter continued the uninspiring nature of the first period, before David Ajiboye threatened a rare moment of near-excitement with his run into the box. Sadly, Callum Kealy could only stab wide.
As many of the 256 in attendance wondered who had clearly chosen the wrong day to hang their washing out in Salcombe Avenue, Darren Budd’s free-fick at the other end virtually came straight back to him, whereupon, Ajiboye took over and forced Steve Mowthorpe into putting down the Big Mac and fries he had picked up from the nearby McDonald’s.
Suddenly, with the clock having somehow ticked past the half-hour mark, Buddy’s left-wing corner produced the game’s deadlock-breaking drama, when Racine timed his run across the near post area, to meet his Captain’s dead-ball delivery and send the local marine life and visiting supporters into raptures.
However, with possibly the shock from the goal/cold still being felt, Colbran was rather harshly, it appeared, penalised for wafting his auror in the vicinity of Steve Hutchings and a free-kick, just a few yards inside the Worthing half, was the outcome.
Even more remarkable was the finish from left-back, Conor Bailey, as he evoked memories of “ Nayim from the halfway line “ come Ronaldinho “ I mean’t that, honest “ when his long-range set-piece caught out a back-pedalling Lucas, to level the scores.
With the Moneyfields tea bar doing a roaring trade in hot beverages at half-time, Ollie Pearce, thoughtfully, allowed some fans to finish theirs as he broke the offside trap and rounded the goalie, before seeing the appropriately-named, Jake Raine slide in to clear his subsequent shot off the line and then test the robustness of the post, as he sacrificed his own personal safety.
Fortunately, both Raine and the goalframe were able to continue.
Just past the hour and the Beast(s) From The East regained the lead from the penalty spot, after Ajiboye’s run into the area was ended, by Brett Poate. The former Brighton and Millwall striker dusted (?) himself down and drove his spot-kick straight down the middle of Mowthorpe’s goal, as the Money’s number one went to his right.
Noah’s Ark then pulled-up in the car park, just in time to see Ollie Pearce arch his neck and twist his whole body in a contortionistic manner, to head home Alex Parson’s right-sided delivery. The ball looping up-and-over a stranded Mowthorpe.
A similar combination came close to adding a gloss to the scoreline a few minutes later but this time, Pearce’s low shot drew a save out of the home net-minder.
As the weather refused to relent, Worthing looked to see out the remainder of the contest without further incident. Unfortunately, with fifteen minutes to go, Lucas was injured when he came out to clear the danger from a marauding Joe Briggs and came off the worst of the two of them, suffering what we now know to be a broken arm.
Man-of-the-moment, Joe Clarke bravely donned the gloves and the number thirteen jersey as Moneyfields scensed their cup-run might not be over just yet.
An aquaplaning James Crane came to the rescue to deny Hutchings before Clarke pulled off a save that any regular ‘keeper would have been proud of, to prevent Dan Woodward from putting the hosts firmly back in the tie.
The stand-in was at it again to repel another attempt until, in the third minute of stoppage time, Captain, Lewis Fennemore put hearts very much in mouths by finding the back of the net from distance, with Clarke going down a little too early, as he was deceived by the shot’s trajectory.
A fearless punch away from a corner proved to be the last meaningful action of the afternoon, with a place in the next round finally secured.