A double from Gemma Worsfold and a close-range strike from Sonia Foster were enough to earn Michelle Lawrence a narrow victory in her first competitive game in charge, as Worthing made an ideal start to their season.
The visitors dominated a frantic opening period and created numerous chances following some neat build-up play. Gemma Worsfold saw a powerful half-volley fly just wide with only five minutes on the clock, before Pagham keeper Meagan Slogar produced a fine sprawling stop to deny Sam Mee from close range 10 minutes later.
Sonia Foster then headed over when well placed and Chloe Lelliott had a curling effort saved before Worthing went ahead on 21 minutes when Worsfold calmly finished a fine passing move.
Pagham almost immediately equalised from kick-off, as Georgia Selby saw her rasping drive from a free kick fly high over Amy Coster’s crossbar.
Despite their dominance, Worthing continued to be wasteful in front of goal before half-time. Tammy Waine headed over from four yards, Slogar superbly pushed away Sara Tubby’s speculative long-range shot and then stopped Worsfold from scoring her second.
Lawrence’s side continued to press after half-time and almost doubled their lead instantly when Mee’s piledriver crashed off the underside of the crossbar with Slogar beaten.
Worthing’s fortunes were to improve moments later however, when Worsfold’s shot from range took a huge deflection and trickled past Slogar into the net to make it 2-0 on 55 minutes.
Worthing added a third ten minutes later when Tubby’s delightful curling effort crashed back off the upright and Foster tapped home.
Having been pegged back for the majority of the game, the hosts found a goal from nowhere as Gemma Yates curled a superb free kick into the top corner of the net to give her side a glimmer of hope going into the final quarter of the match.
Pagham scored again when substitute Soraya Gilani fired past Coster and into the net from close quarters to set up a tense final 10 minutes. Following several claims from the Worthing players, the goal was allowed to stand despite a head injury to Foster in the build-up which forced her off the pitch and Worthing had to see out the remainder of the game with ten players.
Speaking after the game, Lawrence was pleased with her team’s work ethic and style of play but was also aware of the need to be more clinical.
She said “The scoreline doesn’t reflect our dominance, and it’s been the story of our pre-season. The game should have been out of sight by half-time. We know that by not putting away our chances, we are putting ourselves under pressure defensively and we allowed Pagham back into the game. The team played some lovely football at times but were wasteful in key moments.”
Worsfold was also upbeat after opening her account for the season and said “We dominated possession and created chances but we need to be more clinical. We left ourselves with a nervy finish but I’m pleased with the win and to get through to the next round.”
Foster was also positive following the victory and said “It’s a positive start, we showed our potential and experience. We need to ensure more chances are taken and that our focus remains high to avoid tense and nervy finishes.”