After Tuesday night’s Senior Cup drama, it was a return to the team for Aarran Racine, Alex Parsons, Jesse Starkey, Reece Myles-Meekums and Ricky Aguiar, with Darren Budd, Danny Barker, Marley Marshall-Miranda, Callum Kealy and Fin Stevens making way.
The hosts made a promising start and won a penalty after just five minutes, when Ollie Pearce was shoved over by Potchu Mendes-Calucane, virtually on the byline. Unfortunately, the normally reliable taker – who had scored from the spot to start the comeback against Horsham – saw his spot-kick saved by Matte Pierson.
Pearce came close to making amends for that miss when he dispossessed Chace Jacquart and sped away down the left-hand side, whereupon he cut into the box, back inside James Richmond and fired a shot towards the far post that James O’Halloran diverted over the crossbar, to prevent Meekums from pouncing.
Home supporters didn’t have to wait much longer for the breakthrough though, as Parson’s right wing cross was headed clear by Edwin Mensah but only as far as Aguiar, a matter of inches inside the penalty area and he hit a volley into the ground, with Pierson rooted to the spot, as Pearce ducked out of the way, to make it 1-0.
Jasper Pattenden soon doubled his side’s advantage when he got himself in the right place at the right time to knock home a second goal from close range. Joel Colbran took a throw-in to Meekums, who reached the byline, hooked the ball in between two defenders and, after Perace’s initial attempt was saved, Pattenden put away the rebound.
Two so very nearly became three, thanks to a huge clearance by Carl Rushworth that was flicked on by Pearce, then nodded right back to him by Mensah, giving Ollie the opportunity to play a slide rule pass to Meekums. Reece took it on and dinked over the onrushing Pierson, a long way out of his goal but agonisingly a fraction the wrong side of the near stick.
Instead, the Surrey visitor’s halved the deficit when a hesitant Colbran passed straight to Calvin Ekpiteta and he raced to the byline before firing a low delivery across the six yard box for fromer Red, Shola Ayoola to touch home.
Worthing restored their two-goal cushion just past the half-hour mark, as Starkey curled a delightful ball through the inside-left channel and around Mendes-Calucane, perfectly into Meekums’ path. His centre led to Pearce being blocked by Mensah, with the ball looping up in the air and Parsons demonstrating the rarely seen art of the standing overhead-kick.
A rapid break by the home team led to Meekums breaking clear over the halfway line and spreading play out to Pattenden on the left; the ball sat up nicely for him, though, twenty yards out, he could only screw his shot wide of the target.
Ekpiteta saw his attempt blocked almost on the edge of the area as the period drew to a close.
Aguiar went for the spectacular when the second forty-five got underway but his effort from the centre circle dropped over Pierson’s bar.
An uncharacteristic error by Alfie Young forced Rushworth to spread himself and deny Ayoola, who had seized on the defender’s weak back-pass, to deny the men from Surrey a way back into the contest.
They were presented with an alternative route, as Reds struggled to clear their lines and Jaquart nudged the ball past Starkey before unleashing a powerfully-struck drive behind.
Pearce lashed over the top from the ‘D’, while Meekums’ pass out to a marauding Colbran resulted in the wing-back having his shot spilled by Pierson but the Merstham defence were able to dissipate the danger.
A patient build-up on the left flank, initiated by Young, concluded with Pattenden teeing up Aguiar who flashed an attempt only marginally out for a goal-kick.
Pearce then started and finished a move that commenced with his pass out to Parsons, on the right, whose simple release inside to Colbran was blasted low towards the target and tipped onto the far post by Pierson and gobbled up by Ollie, for number four.
Marvin Armstrong came off the bench and, shortly after his introduction, won the free-kick which Aguiar placed beyond the reach of Pierson, as he found the back of the net for a second time.
As news filtered through that Folkestone had edged in front against Haringey, a relentless Reds closed the gap in goal difference with a fifth thanks to a first strike in Worthing colours by another replacement, Marley Marshall – and what a strike it was too ! He ran onto and hit Colbran’s throw-in as it dropped a tad inside the box, first time, on the volley, into the roof of the net. Pick that one out !
It got better for the hosts as, despite Armstrong giving Pierson an easy stop at his front stick and then setting-up Parsons, via a Pierson parry, for a mishit, ten-man Haringey bagged a last minute equaliser, to leave Worthing sitting proudly atop the league table at five o’clock.