Worthing started the new year the same way they finished the old one; with a 3-0 win over a local rival to cement second place and, on this occasion, celebrate a first victory at Bognor since 1999.
- Parsons (10')
- Colbran (53')
- Starkey (70')
It was virtually ‘as you were’ in terms of the eleven players that took to the pitch, with Ollie Pearce coming in for Callum Kealy the only change from Boxing Day. Danny Barker made a welcome return to the sub’s bench, in place of Dylan Jelley, as Hinsh only tinkered a touch.
All the early running was made by the visitors; as Joel Colbran headed a Ricky Aguiar corner narrowly over the target after only two minutes, followed shortly afterwards by Pearce doing likewise from a shot on the turn, after a charge through the middle by Reece Myles-Meekums had given him the chance.
The away side continued to take the game to their hosts, with a low Alex Parsons delivery flashing across the face of goal and Aarran Racine only just unable to keep his header down from a Jesse Starkey free-kick.
Only ten minutes had passed when the deadlock was finally broken by Captain, Parsons. Rocks centre-half, Keaton Wood got the ball stuck under his feet, thirty yards out and had it taken off him by the former Bognor man, who advanced before slotting underneath goalkeeper, Amadou Tangara.
That advantage was almost wiped out by a downward header from Dan Smith, as Doug Tuck swung over a cross from the left, only for Carl Rushworth to, somehow, get his right hand to it and flick it away for a corner. An outstanding piece of skill by the young custodian.
A period of sustained pressure led to ex-Red, James Crane eventually picking out Josh Flint on the far side of the box but he sent his effort over and out for a goal-kick.
Bognor’s Man of The Match, Harry Kavanagh tried his luck from the right with a low centre that was missed by Aguiar but not punished by substitute, Brad Lethbridge – on for Skipper, Harvey Whyte – as he put his attempt the wrong side of the near post..
Timid celebrations were quickly quashed by the assistant referee’s flag, when an offside Pearce connected with a low pass in from Parsons and Alfie Young cut-out a cross by Lethbridge, at the expense of an ultimately unsuccessful flag-kick, with both teams eager to grab the next goal.
The final few moments of the half provided a couple more close calls; Starkey leading the way with a break over the halfway line and feed to Pearce who, unfortunately, couldn’t capitalise as he struck the ball past the near upright.
Then, right at the end of the opening period, Lethbridge – by now on the right – played a ball in towards the front stick that caused consternation; before a relieved Rushworth pounced on it; the same reaction he’d shown just before that, as Flint guided a deep cross onto the inside of said part of goal frame and the goalie’s chest, following a delivery from the opposite flank.
Flint fired over from the inside left channel and only Kavanagh could get a touch to Parsons’ teasing low cross, at the expense of a corner, as the second half got underway.
It was still in its’ infancy when Colbran met Aguiar’s flag-kick, with a towering header at the back stick, to put Red’s in the ascendancy.
They weren’t home and dry yet, however as Starkey’s right boot denied Smith, after the recently introduced, Mason Walsh had laid the ball back to him. Closely followed by Lethbridge unable to get the better of Colbran, as he curled his shot around the full-back but also the far upright.
A third goal looked increasingly likely for the visitors when Aguiar, switched the play from left to right with one of his famous inch-perfect diagonal passes, straight to the feet of Parsons, who took on Crane and got the ball across to Pearce. Unluckily for Ollie, despite swivelling and aiming goalwards, he couldn’t quite get enough purchase on the shot and Tangara tipped away to allow Tommy Leigh to complete the clearance.
Number three did arrive not long after that, thanks to a beautifully dinked pass over and around Tommy Leigh which gave Pearce the opportunity to race away from the midfielder, shift the ball past the onrushing Tangara and steady himself before teeing up Starkey to nip past Joe Dandy, flick past Wood and lash home into the roof of the net to make the travelling masses go mental !
Colchester prospect, Marley Marshall-Miranda came on and didn’t waste any time in making an impact; Tangara going near full-length to turn away his twenty yard drive.
Panto season might be almost over for another year, although that failed to stop Racine contributing when he hit his attempted clearance straight at Flint; only for the ball to rebound “behind you/him” into the grateful – if slightly surprised – hands of Rushworth.
With the game almost at its’ end, Marshall-Miranda released Aguiar in the area but he couldn’t find the target and Rushworth produced more heroics to tip a Walsh bender onto the crossbar, then claimed the subsequent corner comfortably in his midriff.
The final chance fell to the well-beaten hosts, as their top scorer, Smith headed a great opening wide from inside the box but the damage had already been done.