In light of Saturday’s defeat in Kent, Ben Mendoza-Sherman and Alex Parsons both kept their places in the starting eleven and Captain, Darren Budd made his 2019-20 bow. This meant Marvin Armtrong, Shola Ayoola and Mason Doughty reverted to the bench; where U18 Fin Stevens replaced Ross Edwards.
After all the excitement of last term’s 4-3 thriller at Woodside, it was a turgid start to proceedings; with only two poorly struck free-kicks through two equally poorly constructed walls, resulting in two wasted corners, to mention.
Trains passing through West Worthing also had to be delayed when someone – who, on this occasion shall remain nameless – shot so far over the goal that the electric rail had to be turned off while Southern staff retrieved the ball.
Fortunately, there was light at the end of the tunnel (!) courtesy of Lloyd Dawes’ slow-motion curler against the foot of the post that Parsons knocked home from close range, to open the scoring after fifteen minutes.
The lead nearly increased on twenty, as a neat one-two between Budd and Jalen Jones resulted in the latter slipping in Reece Myles-Meekums, who saw his effort pushed away for a corner.
A flag-kick up the other end came via Jones, as he deflected Stefan Ilic’s attempt over and former Red’s centre-half, Stacey Freeman almost made the most of a free run from the edge of the box but, luckily, he could only power his header the wrong side of the far upright.
With the action now beginning to hot up, a short corner routine worked by Starkey to Myles-Meekums and back again, ended with Jesse sending a delivery to the back stick that the Lewes defence were forced to head clear.
Things then went quiet again, save for a brief handbags moment, before, five minutes from half-time, a raking pass out to the left wing by Dawes to Myles-Meekums was subsequently laid back inside to Mendoza-Sherman, who in turn found Budd. His delightful ball, lifted through to Parsons, produced a nonchalant finish by the number nine as he poked it with the outside of his right boot past Stroomberg-Clarke.
The clock hadn’t quite ticked down to the interval when Ilic slid into Roco Rees in an attempt to win possession – unfairly according to the referee and he was shown a second yellow card, to leave his side really up against it.
The second period had barely got underway when Mendoza-Sherman’s sharp swivel and drive towards the target was kept out by a defender’s knee and the outside of the near post, on the angle.
That warning to the visitors wasn’t heeded though, as two minutes later Starkey’s left wing corner was met by the perfectly-timed run and head of Budd, who surely had put the game out of The Rook’s reach. Right ?
Wrong ! Still just six minutes into the final forty-five, Michael Dome-Bemwin’s long pass forward to Jordy Mongoy lead to the striker tuning and firing into the top corner and the team a man short, were back in the contest.
Buddy burst past a few tackles on the left-hand side but was finally thwarted at the near post by Stroomberg-Clarke then Myles-Meekums came even closer, when he went one way then the other to create space for a rocket that smacked the crossbar, although it did appear that the Lewes shot-stopper got a hand to it.
Rees showed a good pair of hands as he emphatically denied Mongoy from Ola Adeyemo’s pull-back; Dome-Bemwin did well to win the ball back on the edge of the penalty area but couldn’t keep his effort down; while the woodwork saved Worthing and frustrated The Blues, in equal measure, when the crossbar intervened at the end of a frantic pattern of play.
The result was almost put beyond doubt with around a quarter of the derby to go, only for Parsons to scream a cross-cum-shot high across the face of goal, after Myles-Meekums’ telegraphed slide-rule pass had put him in on the right.
Mendoza-Sherman fired fractionally the wrong side of the bar and James Hammond saw his low strike, following some good approach play, held down by the base of the post, by Rees.
Starkey’s set-piece seemed to heading for the top bins but a full-length Stroomberg-Clarke tipped the danger away, as we drifted towards a conclusion.
The final seconds of normal time saw Mongoy rather snatch at a chance to make any additional minutes nervy for the hosts; though the first of a minimum of three extra indicated on the electronic board produced the save of the match from Rees, who pulled off a cracking stop to prevent ex-Red, Kieron Pamment’s blast from breaking the back of the net.
A much-improved performance played out in front of an 1,100-plus crowd sets us up nicely for the visit of highly-fancied Hornchurch, on Saturday.