For the first time this season, the visitors lined-up with the same team that had started the last game, against Bognor. Darren Budd replaced Jasper Pattenden on the bench in the only change to the entire squad.
Reece Myles-Meekums picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area but his deflected shot went behind for a corner, in the opening opportunity of the afternoon.
Hillians responded when Mike Wilson’s long-range pass sent Aaron Smith-Joseph scampering away down the left wing, where he breezed past Joel Colbran into the box and laid the ball back for Andre McCollin, to fire over the bar.
Ollie Pearce tried his luck from distance but his free-kick went wide of the upright, before a promising-looking move lead to Alex Parson’s ball into the danger zone being helped on by Joe Clarke to Myles-Meekums. He turned and propelled a low delivery across the face of goal that just eluded an onrushing Pearce.
The hosts thought they’d taken the lead, when Perntreou palmed a looping Dan Beck header marginally under his own crossbar, under pressure from local hero, Pat Harding. Fortunately for him though, referee, James Hurst spotted an infringement, to spare his blushes.
Reaching the midway point of the first-half, Pearce latched on to Danny Barker’s raking pass out on the left, where he proceed to come inside onto his favoured right foot and force Josh James into his first meaningful action of the day.
Harding had Hill hopes hovering when he drilled weakly wide after former Red, Tom Cadman teed him up just outside the penalty area. This coming following James Crane getting in a boot to deny McCollin a shooting opportunity.
Ricky Aguiar’s free-kick, from an identical position to Pearce’s earlier effort, simply found the gloves of James, until a move started at the back gathered momentum with Clarke’s turn and pass out to Jesse Starkey. He skipped past the sliding challenge of Boris Bonno-Kipeye and played in Ajiboye, who took a touch and sent a peach of a shot screaming into the far corner of the net, from around twenty-five yards, to hand the away side the initiative.
Sadly, however, joy was short-lived, as another mistake from KP saw luck, this time, not on his side, as he appeared to wave to the camera but only succeeded in misjudging the flight of Wilson’s left flank set-piece, with Gary Elphick the gleeful recipient.
McCollin laid down a marker in “The Who Can Clear The Fir Trees Competition,” yet, sixty seconds later, the home team were in front.
Harding’s perfectly weighted pass dissected Parsons and Colbran, leaving Smith-Joseph to get in between the pair and slide home for a half-time advantage.
The second period was several minutes old, when Callum Kealy – on for Pearce just before the decisive goal – found himself one-on-one with James but, as he tried to go round him,the grounded custodian stuck out a hand and safely gathered the ball.
Despite enjoying large spells of possession, Worthing struggled to breakdown a resilient hosts.
We’d gone past the hour mark when Crane managed to get free on the left, only to see Ajiboye stab his near-post cross over the goal frame.
Shortly after that, Starkey said “beat that” to McCollin as he sent his delivery comfortably over the fir trees and, at a rate of knots, in the direction of Haywards Heath.
Some semblance of sanity returned ,with Myles-Meekums receiving Clarke’s free-kick and then playing a neat one-two with Ajiboye; though with the ball slightly behind him, he was unable to adjust sufficiently and do more than drag his attempt the wrong side of the upright.
The nippy Nigerian then headed a Starkey cross over not long afterwards, as Worthing, once again, failed to trouble James in The Hillian’s goal.
The final few minutes saw Crane’s cranium make contact with the ball but it merely drifted away from the target and, eventually, was shepherded out of play by a green and black shirt.
Ajiboye went down in the box, amidst claims for a penalty, only for a corner to be awarded after a defensive clearance had ricocheted behind, off the angle of crossbar and post.
Stoppage time drama stemmed from the resulting flag-kick, as James’s lightening-fast reactions kept out both Barker’s header and Kealy’s scrambled follow-up, before Joe Clarke headed into those fabled firs; looking like Christmas Trees, minus the seasonal brightness of decorations.