Goals from Billie Phillpott and Georgina Charlesworth cancelled out Beth Kincaid’s second half strike and secured Saltdean a safe passage into the next round.
Worthing started brightly and came close to taking the lead after just four minutes, when Sara Tubby found space on the edge of the Saltdean box, however her speculative effort flashed wide. Worthing continued to look the more dangerous in the opening stages, and they came within a whisker of taking the lead on 18 minutes when Tammy Waine’s header from a corner rattled the crossbar and bounced away to safety, much to the relief of the Saltdean rearguard.
Despite playing some nice flowing football, the visitors were finding chances hard to come by early on, and they nearly gifted Worthing the opening goal on 24 minutes. Following good pressure from Sophie Humphrey, visiting keeper Emily Hownswell cleared straight to Gemma Worsfold, who could only slice her effort well wide of the target when well placed.
Lawrence’s side were almost made to pay for their missed opportunities on 37 minutes, when a loose pass fell to Saltdean forward Naomi Robinson, thankfully for Worthing, her skewed attempt flew well wide of Amy Coster’s far post.
Worthing’s best chance of the half came on 42 minutes when a flick on from Gemma Worsfold sent Tubby through on goal, however she uncharacteristically fired wide with only Hownswell to beat. Following that attack, Saltdean were forced into a change just before the interval as substitute keeper Katie Burr replaced Hownswell, who picked up an injury in the aftermath of Tubby’s latest chance. That was the final action of a tense first half, as the score remained goalless.
Both sides came out invigorated for the second period, but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock on 51 minutes when Phillpott’s effort squirmed underneath Coster from close range, with Worthing unable to clear the ball off the line in time!
Not to be deterred, the hosts pushed forward and found an immediate reply on 54 minutes. Sophie Humphrey’s excellent chipped pass found Beth Kincaid in space, and she produced an excellent lobbed effort which flew over Burr and into the back of the Saltdean net to bring Lawrence’s side level.
Following that breathless start to the second half, Worthing almost fell behind again on 57 minutes, when Naomi Robinson’s free kick smashed the underside of Coster’s crossbar, with no one able to turn in the rebound from close quarters.
Moments after nearly gifting Worthing possession, visiting substitute keeper Burr then had to produce a fine save from Humphrey’s header following a fantastic delivery from Chloe Lelliott on 65 minutes. That was the last meaningful act for Humprey, who was substituted in place for Beth Mckellar in a tactical change by Lawrence, who moved Waine into a central striking role following Humphrey’s departure.
Both sides were matching each other going into the final 15 minutes, however it was a moment of sheer quality that would restore Saltdean’s lead. Following a quick corner for the visitors, midfielder Charlesworth collected the ball on the edge of the box and smashed a fantastic rasping drive past Coster and into the top corner.
Worthing again responded well to going behind and desperately pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages. Following a fine run from makeshift striker Waine, Tubby saw her curling effort well held by Burr as the hosts continued to be frustrated. Saltdean had one last chance to seal the victory right at the death, however Phillpott could only hit the woodwork when she was put clear through by a long goal kick.
That was the last action of a pulsating second half, as Worthing succumbed to a narrow defeat and exited the County Cup at the first hurdle.
Lawrence was generally pleased with her team’s performance, and said after the match, “it’s hard to be too despondent after that performance. It was an evenly contested match, and we pushed Saltdean all the way. We’ve had a run of cup matches against higher league placed teams, and have been punished for not taking our chances at one end and having a couple lapses in concentration at the other; we gifted Saltdean their first goal but responded well and I really thought we would push on to find a second but as has been the story these past few weeks, we lacked quality in key moments higher up the pitch”.
On the winning goal, Lawrence added, “Whether Charlesworthy will ever hit a sweeter strike I’m not sure but that proved the difference today”.
Worthing return to League action next week with a home match against Newhaven Ladies.
Worthing: Coster, Marshall, Waine, Thompson-Agbro, Lelliott, Hewlett (C), Tubby, Worsfold, Hinton, Humphrey (Mckellar 72′), Kincaid (Frost 80′). Subs: Frost , McKellar, Sutcliffe