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Reds Show Festive Spirit With Strange Winner

Worthing ended a run of four straight defeats with victory over Corinthian Casuals, to move back up to sixth and three points behind fifth-placed Kingstonian.

Alex Parsons missed out through injury as Sam Rents, Darren Budd and Callum Kealy all kept their places, after coming on at Burgess Hill. Joe Clarke and Ricky Aguiar dropped to the bench where they were joined by Hayden Skerry; the only addition to the squad that travelled north on Wednesday.

The game took a while to get going but, when it did, it was the visitors who fired two early warning shots across the bows of the struggling hosts.

Coskun Ekim’s corner picked out an unmarked Reece Hannigan, who headed the ball back in the direction to whence it came and against the far post, where it was cleared by Kealy.

With their tails clearly up, the visitors continued in their quest for the opening goal, as a free-kick from Ekim sent Jordan Clarke clear inside the box, only for him to fire over the angle of crossbar and post, from around twelve yards.

Reds were almost caught out again, when another Ekim flag-kick saw Hannigan this time peel away towards the right-hand upright and head towards the left but, on this occasion, wide and with no further cause for alarm.

Worthing’s first meaningful attack saw Jesse Starkey’s cross nearly find Ollie Pearce but Jack Strange was alert to the danger and got there just ahead of the number ten.

David Ajiboye had a shooting opportunity, after pouncing on a rare mistake from the otherwise-impressive, Ekim but was comfortably denied by the reigning South Division Goalkeeper of the Year, as he drove his effort in from the right, just outside the area.

The next twenty minutes produced the kind of “rip-roaring excitement” that’s usually greeted by a Mexican wave. However, the crowd couldn’t even raise that much enthusiasm, as people’s thoughts turned to how much leftover turkey they still had in the fridge.

Fortunately, the players of both sides stayed awake, particularly Kleton Perntreou, as he briefly turned into Superman, with a cracking impression of Clark Kent’s alter ego to punch clear Hakeem Adelakun’s left-sided free-kick, that he’d sent hurtling dangerously close to the far top corner of the net.

Pearce slipped as he tried his luck from distance, before Reece Myles-Meekums burst clear down the right, starting inside his own half, following some neat build up play at the back, with a delivery that went behind Kealy but not Ajiboye, who skewed wide, in stoppage time.

The start of the second period saw Ajiboye feature again, as he seized on a loose ball, after Jack Tucker had tried to hook it away and slipped in Myles-Meekums, who was denied by the offside flag, as he slotted past James Bracken.

The team from Tolworth thought they’d gone one better, only to see James Crane get back in time to head off the line, once KP’s save from Clarke’s driven attempt had gone skywards and looked like dropping in.

Ajiboye then went on of his trademark runs, starting at right back and charging through the middle, where he found Darren Budd, who’d spotted the run of Starkey down the left. He made his way into the area and stung the palms of Bracken, low down at his near post.

Upon the hour mark, Worthing broke the deadlock in the unlikeliest manner; Crane went long and picked out the perfectly-timed run of Pearce, who plucked the ball out of the sky and held off the attentions of Tucker with one touch, then placed his shot low and beyond Bracken with his second, to send the home fans wild.

The Surrey-based visitors retaliated through Juevan Spencer getting away on the right flank and fizzing in a cross that Gabby Odunaike could only get a toe to, as it ended up going out for a goal-kick.

Fifteen minutes then came and went until, with just another six to go, Strange started and finished a move that put the game beyond his side; a bit of pushing and shoving dissipated after the towering centre-half had bundled over Myles-Meekums and Rent’s free-kick was sliced home by the unmarked and, somewhat unfortunate, number four.

Substitute, Bradley Woods-Garness came within a post’s width of pulling a goal back when Hannigan sent Ekim’s set-piece back across the six yard box, only for the experienced striker to be kept out by the woodwork and denied by the assistant’s raised flag.

The pony-tailed six then showed some nifty footwork in midfield but not a finish to match, as he blazed over.

Finally, Crane threw himself in front of another replacement, Aidan Brown, doing enough to put him off, as he too missed the target by the same method.