A much-changed Worthing laboured to a hard-fought win against a stubborn Leatherhead side to reach the quarter-finals of the Velocity Trophy.
- Pattenden (68')
- Kealy (72')
Manager, Adam Hinshelwood rang the changes for this League Cup tie with Joel Colbran, Ricky Aguiar and Reece Myles-Meekums all on the bench as Alex Parsons, Jesse Starkey and Ollie Pearce watched on from the main stand, alongside the cup-tied Kieron Pamment. While there were starting places for Darren Budd, Dylan Jelley, Lloyd Dawes, Callum Kealy, Marvin Armstrong and Fin Stevens.
On a night when the temperature dropped low enough for curling to take place on the pitch, that wasn’t such a bad idea, with both teams struggling to get going.
A rare foray forward saw Buddy break up play inside his own half; the ball falling nicely for Jasper Pattenden to race clear down the left and eventually drift inside before releasing Armstrong, who was denied a shot on goal by a perfectly timed sliding challenge from Charlie Hester-Cook, as he burst into the box.
The only serious attempt on goal also came from Pattenden, as he collected a pass from Dawes – after he’d taken a knockdown by Kealy to a long ball from right-back by Jelley – and fired in an effort from just outside the penalty area that Tanners’ number one, Zaki Oualah swept away with his right foot. Stevens then tried to pick out Kealy at the near post but the Aussie striker was unable to capitalise.
Other than Young feeling the full force of a Travis Gregory piledriver and Pattenden having another effort blocked in the box, a somewhat understrength visitors had one other half-chance from Gregory repelled by Budd at close quarters, as both sides appeared eager to get in the warm and hope for better after the break.
In fact, the opening forty-five minutes had been so enlivening, one supporter took to counting the seats in the stand; proudly declaring there to be 449 of them. Nobody had the heart to tell him there were actually 450 !
Dawes tried his luck from long range, only to see Oualah pat it down and gather and Budd’s free-kick lacked enough power to trouble the Green’s goalie, as the second period, rather underwhelmingly, got underway.
Player-Manager, Nikki Bull robbed Young, with Worthing trying to play out from the back and made his way towards the penalty area where neither he nor his assistant (and half-time substitute) Martin McCarthy were able to threaten Carl Rushworth’s goal, as Bull stumbled and McCarthy could only find the perimeter netting.
Finally, some decent quality arrived when Armstrong showed delightful control in response to receiving a long ball from Jelley and promptly turned his marker, Will Seager; powering his way into the area, before getting the ball stuck under his feet, which allowed the recently introduced Tom Chalaye to be bravely kept out by Oualah at the expense of a corner, which the ‘keeper caught on his line.
With the threat of penalties looming ever larger, the home team, much to the relief of many of those in attendance, broke the deadlock midway through the second half. Chalaye and Danny Barker hassled and harried Seager by the corner flag, with Tom coming out on top and passing to Kealy in the box. Callum pulled off a great little turn and reached the byline, whereupon he fizzed a low ball across the face of goal that Pattenden gleefully slid home at the back stick.
Three minutes later and Kealy had a hand in doubling his side’s lead, when a one-two between him and Joe Clarke, that had started with the midfielder galloping forward from the centre circle and receiving a return pass from the number nine, ended with Clarke being brought down from behind by McCarthy. Cal took responsibility for the spot-kick and promptly drove it into the net, although he enjoyed a slice of good fortune as the ball clipped the inside of the left-hand post on it’s way in.
Pattenden located Captain, Budd in a central position and he proceeded to take a couple of touches before unleashing a shot that at least warmed the gloves of Oualah, if not the cockles of the hosts’ supporters.
The Leatherhead custodian’s goal-kick, ten minutes from time was met by the head of Jelley but then the foot of Gregory, who showed good close control to get past the young defender and within range, only for a smothering Rushworth to come out and prevent him going any further, in the vicinity of his near upright.
Jelley almost got his head to Aguiar’s flag-kick and Oualah needed two attempts to stop and hold on to Barker’s fearce effort from distance, as the game drew to a close.
Gregory came close to offering his side hope, when he seized on a loose ball, drove towards the target and didn’t miss by much, causing Rushworth some concern.
A frosty night was almost over but not before Hester-Cook grazed the woodwork and the lively Crossley Lema forced Carl into his only real save of the night; diving to his left to push away the full-back’s effort that threatened to curl inside the far post.