There were two changes to Tuesday’s starting eleven, with Ollie Pearce coming in for Alex Parsons and Carl Rushworth back from International duty to reclaim his spot from Roco Rees. Meanwhile, on the bench, Ben Pashley, Darren Budd and Lloyd Dawes replaced Mason Doughty, Shola Ayoola and the aforementioned, Pearce.
Reds attacked from the off and nearly went in front after only two minutes but Captain, Danny Bracken saved at point blank range to deny both Marvin Armstrong and Callum Kealy, in quick succession.
Those opportunities had been set up by the lively Pearce and he came close himself to finding the back of the net, though, once again, Bracken kept his low effort from the edge of the penalty area out to preserve the status quo.
A Worthing corner almost resulted in the opening goal – for the visitors – as Mathias Bakare led a swift counter-attack and played in Nat Pinney on the left but his shot lacked the power to trouble the returning Rushworth.
The relentless, early pace of the game continued when Brad Wilson broke clear although, following a delightful, disguised pass at the start of a one-two with Pinney, couldn’t match the finish to the build-up by blazing an angled attempt over the target, on the right-hand side of the box.
Reds responded through two Ricky Aguiar raspers. Firstly, he too was unable to keep his shot down; not a problem he encountered moments later, as his low free-kick around the wall brought another good save out of Bracken but Meekums wasn’t quite able to adjust his body in time and the rebound went straight to him and up onto the crossbar.
Casuals then tried their luck from a set-piece, when Hakeem Adelakun missed the far post by inches, before Aguiar tested the strength of the crossbar by rattling it from forty yards out, after he’d beaten Coskun Ekim to the ball and played a one-two with Kealy.
Two goals in six minutes, approaching half-time, saw the home team go into it with the advantage. Meekums and Aguiar combined when the former laid the ball back to the latter to place, effortlessly into the top corner, near the edge of the area and then provider became scorer, as Reece pounced on Rob Jamison’s misdirected header to slot into a gaping net.
Alfie Young presented Ben Cheklit with the chance to restore some immediate pride in stoppage time but Rushworth easily held on to his weak effort; while more defensive uncertainty from the visitors – with Jamison heading the ball against his own teammate, Adelakun – allowed Meekums to pick out Pearce at the back stick, where the forward was unable to apply the finishing touch, with one last defender lurking.
The second period took a little while longer to get going than the first, with Meekums’ right wing cross grazing the face of the bar, the only significant action in the opening exchanges.
Two-thirds of the way through the contest, a weaving run into the box by the same player gift-wrapped a great chance for kealy, only for the number nine’s first touch to let him down.
HIs next attempt, starting in an identical position to the previous one, saw Meekums have a go at goal himself but Bracken blocked on the line to stop the high-flying hosts extending their lead.
Twenty minutes remained on the clock when substitute, Tom Chalaye brought down a high ball, held off Ekim, advanced, turned and fired behind, as he looked to add to his debut strike at Bowers & Pitsea.
Bracken was ready for our Jelley, when Dylan rose highest at a Jesse Starkey flag-kick to head down but see Casuals’ keeper pull-off a stunning one-handed stop to prevent the giant centre-half sealing victory. Chalaye blazing the rebound over from a tight angle.
As the end of the afternoon got ever nearer, Buddy-off-the-bench struck a powerful effort, twenty-five yards out well wide after Aguiar’s left flank corner was only cleared as far as him.
Sixty seconds further into proceedings, Joel Colbran cleared virtually off the line, as Bakare’s drive threatened to make it a nervous finish for the Reds, before the attack-minded right-back threw himself in the way of substitute, Kevat Serbonij’s attempt to prevent the Surrey-based side finding a way back into the match. A flurry of late chances finally coming to an end when Jamison sent his header in the right direction, only for it to bounce into Rushworth’s hands.
One last burst by replacement, Oliver Sitch saw him clean through on goal, until an immaculately-timed tackle from Jelley stopped him in his tracks.
Added time produced one more chance for Worthing to add the cherry on the cake through Lloyd Dawes. Despite being on the pitch just a matter of minutes, the sub teased Casuals’ last throw of the dice, Jack Strange and powered an effort across the ‘keeper which Bracken parried to good effect, for a corner, then caught the subsequent set-piece when Aguiar put it in.