A broken down coach failed to dampen the spirits of Brightlingsea, as they returned home with a point from a game that will be remembered more for what went on off the ball, than on it.
- Ajiboye (35')
- Cripps (6')
Danny Barker’s hamstring injury saw Joe Clarke keep his place, while Alex Parsons, Alfie Young and Callum Kealy started ahead of James Crane, Jasper Pattenden and Ollie Pearce, with Ross Edwards and Darren Budd returning to the bench.
In a strangely subdued atmosphere, under leaden skies, the visitors took an early lead when Jake Turner’s long throw saw Joe Clarke’s hair rise highest to head the away side in front.
It took the hosts more than ten minutes to serve up a response, as David Ajiboye lost his footing at the end of run that had almost taken him to the penalty area, whereupon Kwame Adubofour-Poku picked up the baton and sprayed the ball out wide to Jesse Starkey. His cross was met Parsons, just ahead of Ajiboye but flew over the bar.
Kwame and Jesse combined again moments later, as the former found Ricky Aguiar in acres of space, only for the midfielder’s effort to look more at home in The Six Nations.
A free-kick gave the youngster a second bite at the cherry, which he at least kept slightly lower but not low enough to trouble James Bradbrook in the Regent goal.
The R’s had two chances to extend their lead just shy of the half-hour mark, as Turner’s long throws, rather than his famous pies, caused Reds problems.
The first was headed partially clear by a semi-airborne Starkey and then driven wide, with the aid of a deflection, by Billy Hunt. The second was punched out by Covolan and half helped on by Starkey, with Lucas getting a more decisive touch on Aaron Condon’s attempt, to turn it round the far post.
Shortly after that little episode, a quite bizarre build-up resulted in the equaliser being fired home by Ajiboye.
Aguiar’s right wing free-kick was headed up in the air by Jake Gould, on his 400th appearance and, as Bradbrook tried to punch clear, he only succeeded in landing a right hand on poor old Parsons. (Although he did earn himself a shot at Chris Eubank Junior’s IBO Middleweight belt in June.) The penalty was dispatched down the middle by Ajiboye, as Bradbrook chose to go left.
One final opportunity of the half saw Lucas launch himself across his goal to claw away Captain Matt Cripp’s header, that had seemed destined to sneak inside the upright. Then Aguiar was on hand to clear the danger from the same player, after a mini-scramble had ensued. The long throws of Turner continuingly proving to be a potent weapon.
There was still time for number ten, Parsons to receive a red card for a rather robust challenge on Turner, and leave Worthing to see out the remainder of the game with ten men; for the tenth time this season.
Five minutes into the second period and Brightlingsea nearly had their second goal.
Hunt turned Young on the right-hand side of the penalty area but his shot was held low down by Covolan, before Condon broke clear of the halfway line on the left and got all the way to the edge of the six yard box, where he drove his effort across Lucas but also against the far post. The recycled ball back in was eventually hacked to safety by Ajiboye.
The away team continued to attack the St Elmo Road End, when Hunt held off the close attentions of Young at the back stick and, after missing with his first go, struck the underside of the crossbar from close range, with his second.
Condon curled a low free-kick around the wall that was well saved by Covolan and his subsequent corner was comfortably caught by the increasingly busy Brazilian.
A further flag-kick produced a near post drive from Turner, that was handled behind by Lucas for another which Jordan Barnett sliced high and wide.
Hunt took a few inches off the top with a daisy cutter and Ajiboye found the top corner. He just forgot to actually hit the ball and put it there.
With five minutes to go, the home team suddenly woke up, when Colbran picked out an unmarked Ollie Pearce on the left-hand side of the box and he laid it back to Clarke, whose attempt was partially blocked by Turner at the expense of a corner.
Stoppage time saw a flurry of hopeful half-chances, as Condon’s dead ball delivery gave Covolan a routine stop and a similar set-piece, this time from Turner, couldn’t quite be met by the telling touch of substitute, Joe Yaxley.
Although quick thinking by Lucas saw his throw out to Ajiboye taken all the way to the opposing penalty area, where another replacement, Harry Morgan was on hand to deny any breakaway winner.
James Crane (twice) and Jalen Jones had semi-efforts form flag-kicks and Covolan kept out a certain second deep into time added on but, in truth, a draw was only fair.