A mad five minute spell at the very start of this game effectively ended Worthing’s already slim play-off chances, as The Moatsiders claimed fifth place by a single point.
For the final time in 2018-19, Adam rang the changes; with five of Monday’s starters – Covolan, Jones, Young, Ajiboye and Starkey keeping their places alongside the three substitutes that came on that day – namely Colbran, Kwame and Pearce – while the two that didn’t, Kealy and Danny B also commenced kick-off. Ricky was back as was Ross (but only on the bench.) The absentees being Crane (Ear Infection) and Billy B.
If Red’s hopes of finishing in the top five appeared hopeful before Saturday afternoon, they were rapidly reduced to rubble by a rampant visitors who cruised into a three-goal lead after only five minutes, to quickly crush the host’s dreams and realise their own.
Slow passing at the back resulted in Lucas giving the ball straight to former teammate, Kershaney Samuels, who’s first-time lob sailed back over the ‘keeper’s head and into an unguarded net.
Two soon became three when Walter Figueira turned Aguiar and curled in an absolute beauty, that no netminder would have saved.
Dazed and somewhat confused, Worthing responded through Jesse Starkey spraying out wide to David Ajiboye, who came in off the right flank and “returned to sender,” who fired wide.
Normal service then resumed for the men from Surrey as this time, Figueira outmuscled Ricky to prize possession away from him, before letting fly from distance and virtually putting the game out of their beleaguered host’s reach.
Danny B did enough to hold off Figueira and prevent further damage after Starkey had attempted to find Kealy but Amadou Tangara was quickly off his line.
Ollie Pearce chipped gently into the goalie’s hands, Kwame the architect, only to be denied anyway by the offside flag, as their side struggled to make much headway.
A neat triangular routine on halfway lead to Tom Kavanagh driving forward and unleashing a rocket that Covolan did well to push over the top, two-handed.
The next goal could have swung the game either way and it was Pearce who gave the home team hope when he finished back across Tangara, after the Merstham number one had parried Ajiboye’s powerful effort from the right.
The opening gambit of the second period came via Aguiar’s free-kick brushing the side netting, marginally preceding his next attempt; indirect and short towards Ajiboye, who was beaten to the ball by Figueira.
Regrettably, his following (and final) contribution resulted in him bundling over the fleet-footed forward, who had latched onto a wonderful pass by right-back, Michael Abnett, at the expense of a penalty. Ricky was red-carded and Kavanagh dispatched the spot-kick into the bottom corner; sending Lucas the wrong way.
A short corner was chipped in by Samuels and headed wide by Gus Sow as Merstham seemed happy with their lot.
Kwame had other ideas though, demonstrated by a delightful turn in the centre circle and a long ball forward that Pearce touched over Tangara but could only send arrowing across the face of goal and down to the corner flag.
Seconds later, Ollie’s throw to Callum near the other corner flag saw the Aussie burst between Abnett and Ollie Cook to tee-up Starkey on the edge of the ‘D’’, who added another one to the Woodside Goal of The Season Competition by rifling past the despairing dive of Merstham’s number one.
Figueira then almost turned provider for Roman Michael-Percil but Lucas parried his attempt and Starkey’s strength lead to a goal-kick.
The former Gillingham midfielder’s dead-ball delivery settled in Tangara’s midriff before the custodian thwarted his efforts in locating Pearce, as time started to run out.
Ajiboye tried one last salvage operation, in time added on, by drifting inside, only to pull his shot the wrong side of the upright and it was Merstham who could look forward to a play-off semi-final at Carshalton on Thursday. Leaving Worthing and all those in red, pondering what might have been.