Worthing snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with two goals in the last fifteen minutes and an even later winner at the end of extra time.
- Dawes (77')
- Pearce (83')
- Armstrong (119')
- Stone (16')
- Pope (47')
After Saturday’s late drama, Shola Ayoola and Joe Tennent were in from the start, while fellow subs, Lloyd Dawes, Mason Doughty and, for his debut, Ollie Long all earned promotions to the first eleven. Marvin Armstrong, Ross Edwards, Ricky Aguiar, Ollie Pearce and Jasper Pattenden, the ones to make way.
The (very) early signs gave little indication of what was about to unfold, as Dan Ajakaiye tested the strength of a neighbour’s double glazing.
Former Manager, Gary Elphick got in the way of Doughty’s shot and Joel Colbran narrowly missed the far post with a low, driven effort before some defensive disarray in the home ranks forced Roco Rees to dive bravely at the feet of Jack Dixon, as he and Lanre Azeez failed to make the most of the giftwrapped opportunity.
More uncertainty at the back resulted in centre-half, Craig Stone picking up a loose clearance and sending it back with interest into the net from a good twenty yards out.
Rees’ services were required again a few minutes later as Ajakaiye found himself clean through once more, with Tennent there to complete the job by heading off the line.
The Brighton loanee was certainly being kept busy; producing a top-draw save to keep out Dixon for a second time but then pulling off a more routine stop, when Azeez tried his luck.
Louis Rogers got his first taste of the action, although he wasn’t seriously tested by Saturday’s hero, Ayoola, or, indeed, Doughty, whose dummy had set up the initial chance.
Dixon and Rees continued their own little competition, with Roco coming out on top again and Red’s number one demonstrated great awareness to punch away Sam Beale’s inswinging corner, that came close to sneaking in under the crossbar.
A brief spell of penalty box pinball finally came to an end when goalscorer, Stone let fly from thirty yards but wide of the target, while Rogers stayed alert at his near post to prevent Ayoola bagging a late first half equalizer. Jake Elliott’s timely intervention preventing Reece Myles-Meekums having a second bite.
Home fans were dropping their mid-match beverages as Rogers’ huge drop-kick went straight down the middle to Ben Pope, who bore down on Rees’ goal before slotting the ball past him, during the opening seconds of the restart.
Dawes teed-up Danny Barker, only for the Captain to fire well wide and Jalen Jones won a corner that came to nothing, as the shell-shocked hosts tried to find a response.
The pace and trickery of Ajakaiye was proving to be a real thorn in Worthing’s side but Roco rode to the rescue yet again, before breathing an audible sigh of relief when the resulting corner went all the way across the box, untouched.
Rogers’ leg denied substitute, Armstrong and Pope blazed over after seizing on further hesitation in the Reds’ rearguard, as the contest continued to ebb and flow.
The seemingly immovable force of Rees lead to the ‘keeper rushing out to block Ajakaiye’s attempt as he was denied a match-clinching third goal.
Then, the beast awoke from his slumber. Two subs, Armstrong and Pearce combined for the latter to unleash an absolute rocket that seemed destined for the top corner, until Rogers pulled-off a magnificent save, at the expense of a corner.
The Arrows’ custodian did equally well to keep out a Dawes header moments later, though there was nothing he could do when Lloydy beat him at the second attempt from an Aguiar flag-kick.
Azeez failed to test Rees from wide on the right and we would soon be heading for extra time.
Ricky took a corner, Rogers palmed it out, Pearce returned the ball back into the danger zone, it got cleared as far as Aguiar, just outside the box and his powerfully-struck low drive was parried by Rogers but only as far as the predatory Pearce, who smashed in the leveller.
Thirty more minutes almost weren’t need when Dawsey found himself in a great position, one-on-one with Rogers, only for his touch to desert him at just the wrong moment.
Meekums fizzed one across the face of goal, Barker’s strategically placed lower limb mean’t replacement, Kenny Pogue wouldn’t find a killer third and Ryan Worrall, also recently introduced to the fray did the same as Reece, with the match now into the additional half-hour.
Aguiar’s near-post blast ended with Rogers conceding a corner; something that a required a header off the line in stoppage time at the end of the first period of extra time, by Stone.
Rogers got down well to hold on to Pattenden’s shot by his left-hand upright, after Armstrong had set him up before the Under-18’s/Academy graduate won a decisive free-kick, when he was fouled wide on the right. Jesse Starkey sent in a measured delivery that the chargin’ Marvin met with some aplomb, steaming in towards the back stick to power home a header, barely a minute away from the dreaded penalty shootout.
There was still time for Hastings to fire across the Worthing bows in the third minute of stoppage time but then, finally, the ref’s whistle blew and a return to St Albans City became a reality.