A season that promised so much continued on a downward slope yesterday, as bitter rivals Bognor took the local bragging rights.
Adam Hinshelwood was forced into just the one change from the side that were beaten by Haringey Borough, last time out; Captain, Darren Budd absent after his wife gave birth in the morning, so his place went to Joe Clarke. While Callum Kealy returned from suspension to take his place on the bench, where he was joined by Rhyle Ovenden and Jasper Pattenden.
With both teams struggling for form, it was the visitors were first on the attack; Harvey Whyte, on the right, laid the ball across to a hovering Doug Tuck, who’s dummy allowed the on loan Theo Widdrington to flash a shot wide inside the opening minute.
Rock’s top scorer, Dan Smith, then called Kleton into action, when his curling effort took a deflection off Danny Barker and was held, at the second attempt, by the ‘keeper.
Worthing’s only attacking contribution at this stage being a low, driven cross from the right by Reece Myles-Meekums, that failed to find a connection as it flew across the six yard box.
A similar outcome to that of a Jimmy Muitt free-kick, that merely produced a goal-kick, when sent in from the opposite flank.
Despite a near two thousand crowd in attendance, the atmosphere was surprisingly subdued. Perhaps, in part, as a result of both side’s current struggles.
Those fears were nearly allayed for the men from Woodside Road, as former Rock, Ollie Pearce saw his attempt cleared by the boot of former teammate, Dan Lincoln before, a few minutes later, the visitor’s number one went airborne to tip away a delivery by Jesse Starkey.
The rest of the half didn’t see much more action, except for a shot by Brad Lethbridge that he drilled wide of Perntreou’s near post after cutting inside from the left flank, moments after James Crane got in front of the predatory Smith to stop him, potentially, putting Bognor in front.
One final effort came the way of the hosts, when Starkey’s ball in found the head of Myles-Meekums, then David Ajiboye but wound up in the safe hands of Lincoln.
Once the sterling efforts of all the bar and food staff had seen to the dietary needs of the masses, the second forty-five minutes commenced with a cracking save by KP to keep out Widdrington, only for the assistant’s flag to go up at the sight of an offside Smith.
Our nifty netminder rescued us again shortly afterwards, with Smith doing all the hard work to set-up a chance for the onrushing Lethbridge to be frustrated by an outstretched boot.
Starkey arrowed a shot that flew so far over, the ball was last seen boarding a ferry to France.
A turn and drive from midfield by Lethbridge then brought about the opening goal of the afternoon, as he raced away from Clarke and Alex Parsons, drifted past Joel Colbran and, finally, drew a save from Perntreou who parried out to a waiting Smith and he wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity like that.
To their credit, Reds responded with Starkey’s flighted delivery picking out Parsons at the far post but, he could only side-foot wide of the target.
Crane bravely blocked Whyte’s blast, before the game swung back to the other end of the pitch, where some impressive hold-up play, by the recently introduced Kealy saw him pass the ball on to Crane and, subsequently, Myles-Meekums. His shot was kept out by the foot of Lincoln who then combined with a defender on the line, to thwart the substitute.
With Bognor looking to sew up the three points and Worthing searching for an equaliser, the second period increased dramatically, in terms of entertainment.
It very nearly became “ advantage Rocks”, when Muitt seized on a stray pass from Starkey, who was thankful for the ever-alert reactions of Kleton who, in turn, was relieved to see Smith’s follow-up fly narrowly wide of the far post.
Ricky Aguiar tried his luck from distance and found Lincoln in imperious form; with the equally adept cricketer in the right place at the right time, to claim Crane’s header from the resulting corner.
Ajiboye had a go from the inside-left channel but ended up dragging his effort the wrong side of the upright, while the last ten minutes saw chances go begging for both the outstanding Gary Charman and Muitt.
As the clock ticked down towards full-time, the last, significant act of the contest put the final outcome beyond doubt.
Widdrington’s shot from the edge of the box was touched on by Smith and stopped by Perntreou, with the ball falling kindly for sub, Mason Walsh, who had time and space to pick out the far side of the net and send the visiting hoards into raptures.