A stoppage time equaliser from substitute, Shola Ayoola saved Worthing’s blushes as they scraped a replay against Hastings United.
- Beale (6')
- Dixon (32')
- Ajakaiye (79')
- Myles-Meekums (10')
- Barker (23')
- Ayoola (90')
Joel Colbran kept his place, after last week’s win at Margate and Jasper Pattenden was handed his first start in place of Alex Parsons, who, along with Joe Tennent, took his spot on the bench.
Ben Mendoza-Sherman and new signing, Ollie Long were also amongst the replacements.
As you might expect with a high-scoring draw, it didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken – both teams doing so in the opening ten minutes !
Although it took a while to confirm who exactly had put the hosts in front.
Sam Beale’s corner had come via former Reds’ Player-Manager, Gary Elphick’s long ball down the right to another familiar face from the recent past, in Ben Pope. Jalen Jones conceding the set-piece after the striker had cut inside Ross Edwards. Beale’s right-sided flag kick went straight in to hand them the lead after six.
The Arrows’ advantage was short-lived however, as a failure to clear their lines saw a misplaced header fall perfectly for Reece Myles-Meekums and he slotted past Louis Rogers, to bring the scores back level once more.
Captain, Sam Adams volleyed over the goal, twenty yards out from it, as Hastings pounced on an Edwards header, followed by a top-of-his-back…er by Jesse Starkey, as Beale caused problems for the visitor’s backline with another corner.
Midway through the half and the Westerners went in front for the first time. A neat passing move resulted in Colbran’s delivery being put behind by Jake Elliott, at the expense of a flag-kick. Ricky Aguiar took it and, eventually, Danny Barker made it two goals in two games by hooking the ball over his shoulder and watching it drop into the far side of the net. Despite the forlorn presence of a backtracking defender.
Even that spectacular effort wasn’t enough to keep the unbeaten Easterners at bay for very long though as, ten minutes later, they’d restored the equilibrium courtesy of Jack Dixon’s salmon-like rising to meet a Lanre Azeez chipped pass – at the end of a left flank burst by Dan Ajakaiye – and planting of his header past a stranded Roco Rees.
Man of The Match, Azeez then skipped over a Colbran challenge and flashed across a drive that Dixon couldn’t quite stretch his neck long enough to reach; before Elphick did get his head to the ball, only to be denied by the dome of Joel, as we entered added time.
The early stages after the restart commenced with Jones taking his turn to keep Hastings’ centre-half at bay, as Elphick threatened at the back stick. While Adam Lovatt capitalised on some errant passing at the back to tee-up Azeez, who fizzed an attempt wide.
Good link-up play between Colbran, Meekums and Marvin Armstrong ended with the latter stinging the palms of Rogers but the host’s retaliated, with Dixon taking down a long ball on the left and seeing his shot blocked by a sea of red.
Rees showed lighting-fast reactions to stop Colbran from poking the ball past him, just past the hour mark and Ollie Pearce will be disappointed at not getting sufficient contact, as he pulled an effort the wrong side of the upright.
No time for a breather though, as Dixon saw his goalbound shot deflected behind for a corner that was subsequently headed over the target, at the other end.
A little more than a quarter of the contest remained when Craig Stone found himself as the meat in a Meekums/Pearce sandwich, on the right-hand side. Ollie won that particular battle and sent his teammate scampering away across the edge of the penalty area, only for the winger to fire his shot above the goal frame.
Someone did find the back of the net again but it was the team in white that got it, thanks to the left wing persistence of Azeez locating his fellow demon dribbler, Ajakaiye, who needed two bites at the cherry before powering home low, inside Roco’s left-hand post.
Worthing’s goose looked to be well and truly cooked at this stage. However, seconds earlier, the introduction off the bench of Alex Parsons and Shola Ayoola would prove to have far reaching consequences, in more ways than one.
Hastings replacement, Ryan Worrall needlessly tripped a galloping Meekums, heading down the inside right channel. Starkey and Aguiar proceeded to enjoy a little one-two at the free-kick and Ricky had plenty of time(!) and space to float a ball towards the back stick that Rogers dropped under pressure. A brief spell of pinball finally came to an end via Shola’s swivel and hook into the net, in the ninety-second minute !
All back to Woodside then, right ? Nearly ! A left flank corner had a similar effect in Worthing’s penalty area and only the width of the upright prevented Stone from being a hero and villain at the same time, as he smashed his attempt against the sturdy apparatus.
After all that excitement, who goes to St Albans in a little under a fortnight is anyone’s guess !(!)