There were various changes to the side that returned from Haringey with a well-earned point. Carl Rushworth linked up with England U19’s again on Sunday for a few days so, with Aaron Relf cup-tied, (ironically for playing against The V’s) it was a first competitive appearance this season for Rui Buckland. Joel Colbran and Marvin Armstrong got the night off, Dylan Jelley and Tom Chalaye were also cup-tied and Callum Kealy and Jesse Starkey dropped to the bench. Fin Stevens, Ollie Pearce, Lloyd Dawes, Darren Budd and Ben Pashley all started, while Academy no.1 Toby Lydon-Gardiner and U18 starlet, Ollie Read completed the line-up amongst the replacements, alongside Tyrese Mthunzi.
As temperatures dipped drastically, Pearce got the game underway when he was denied by an offside flag in the opening seconds, then, a few minutes later, teed-up Ricky Aguiar to fire wide after receiving Cameron Tutt’s throw-in on the left and turning inside.
The opening goal of the evening wasn’t long in coming though, as former Red, Charlie Farmer sold his ‘keeper, Tom Bradford woefully short with a backpass, as Pearce lurked menacingly and the number ten gladly accepted the offer to advance and round the stranded netminder to slot home into an unguarded net.
The host’s – and in particular, Bradford’s – misery was compounded by the custodian being forced off with a twisted knee while attempting to keep the visitors out. With no goalie amongst their replacements, George Warren donned the gloves for the rest of the match.
Reece Myles-Meekums charged down the left and slipped in Dawes but he could only shoot over the angle of crossbar and post. Tutt tried his luck from the same side, only for his cross-cum-shot to fly over the target too.
Worthing made it third time lucky on that far flank when a series of quick, accurate passes culminated in Meekums sending a low delivery into the six yard box that Dawes side-footed past Warren, to double the advantage.
Midway through the first-half, Dawes tested the reflexes of the debutant goalkeeper, who passed with flying colours, after Alex Parsons had presented him with the opportunity. Lloyd doing so again a short while later, with a similar outcome, following a brief ball over the top from Ricky Aguiar.
A sliding Pashley did enough to put off Matt Ford, who had the home team’s first chance of the contest but blazed over from a good position on the left-hand side of the penalty area and Dawes’ delicate dink gave Warren a comfortable catch as the opening forty-five came to a close.
Half-time brought a long queue at the outside tea urn, as a colony of Penguins took to the running track to challenge a puffinry of Puffins and a Polar Bear broke the shot put record.
To say it was “a bit cold” would be to conclude that The Great Wall of China is “quite long.”
AFC looked to get back in the contest soon after the break via Dom Hemblade’s right wing corner but Captain, Joe Keehan wasn’t able to direct his header towards goal.
Three minutes further on, the Westerners put the game out of Varndeanians’ reach when Dawes won a fifty-fifty with Warren, well outside his area, before going on to finish into an open target. A shame for the Stripes’ sub goalie, after he’d punched a Dawes delivery clear just before Pearce could pounce, moments earlier, at the end of a rapid counter-attack.
Aguiar supplied Meekums, who’s low cross failed to find a white shirt, while former Woodside favourite, Joe Keehan dusted himself down to bend a free-kick around the wall and the wrong side of the far stick, following a foul by Fin.
The hosts were finally hitting their stride and Keehan, J was in the thick of it again when he linked-up well with Ollie Stevenson; only for the latter to chip his centre into the hands of Buckland.
Two-thirds of the way through the tie, Stevens’ effort deflected behind for another corner which Warren fisted away before breathing a sigh of relief when Tutt’s byline blast across the face of his goal went by without incident, after Read had played in Pearce who had delicately dinked into the left-back’s path.
Ollie had the final say with two minutes to go, as he accepted a pass from Dawes and stung the palms of Warren with substitute, Mthunzi driving the rebound wide, just outside the eighteen yard box.