The tie came less than two weeks after the last outing between the two teams, after Worthing woundup 3-0 victors at Woodside Road in a fiery Boxing Day affair. This time the game was to be played in Horsham’s back yard, for the quarter finals of the County Cup.
The game took place in an exceedingly damp Camping World Community Stadium, and the slippery surface certainly played its part.
The game began with a tentative opening five minutes, as both sides felt their way into the game. Both sides fielded strong XIs, although Adam Hinselwood did put out a particularly young squad, even by Worthing’s standard. New arrival Marley Marshall earned his first start in a red shirt after arriving on loan from Colchester United, while 16-year-old Fin Stevens was also handed a rare start.
The deadlock was broken very early on, as the hosts found themselves a goal up within seven minutes. Taurean Roberts had his shot blocked, and the rebound fell to Rob O’Toole, who found the bottom left corner of the net with a composed finish.
Horsham dominated the early stages, as Worthing struggled to get find their passing pattern. The yellows found another good early chance, as ex-Mackerel Harvey Sparks set up Charlie Harris 20 yards out, but his low strike whistled just wide of the post.
As is a hallmark of Hinshelwood’s side, they did not abandon their passing philosophy even when under a lot of pressure from the opposition. After going one goal down, Worthing seemed to find their feet, carving out a few chances down the left wing and mounting the pressure on the Horsham goal. Ollie Pearce proved a constant threat down the left flank, consistently able to open up a yard of space ahead of him and find an opening for a cross.
As is often the way in football, dominating possesion can count for nothing if the opposition snatches a goal, and this is what the hosts did in quite spectacular fashion. The ball was cleared off a Worthing head and sat up kindly for Lea Dawson, who thought about it for just a moment as the world seemed to stand still, and then unleashed a vicious half volley from 40 yards which flew straight into the net.
The game then calmed down for a period; neither side’s gameplan was likely to account for Horsham to be 2-0 up after just 25 minutes.
Worthing burst back into life just before the interval, with a succession of fine chances to really put the hosts under pressure. Pearce drove in a dangerous ball from the left, which bounced and bobbled and trickled across the face of goal but just evaded the feet of Callum Kealy and Jasper Pattenden by a matter of inches. Minutes later, Pattenden got another chance, striking a curling effort towards the top left corner and drawing out a fantastic save from Bentley.
The half ended 2-0 to Horsham, and Worthing had not looked like equalising any time soon. The hosts dominated the first spells, but the visitors were certainly growing into the game as the minutes ticked by. Clear-cut chances were at a premium, but Horsham were clinical enough to take theirs with aplomb when they arrived.
The Mackerel Men started the second half as they had finished the first, mounting yet more pressure on the Horsham goal with a succession of corners.
Ten minutes had passed before the first real issue of the half. Pearce had won a free kick 25 yards from goal, after receiving a wayward elbow. He steped up to take it himself, and struck it low and hard at Bentley, who fumbled the ball and a Worthing man tried to scramble it over the line. The men in red were convinced the ball had crossed the line, but after consulting the linesman, the referee awarded just a corner.
Kieron Pamment, who had replaced goalscorer O’Toole at half time, looked a threat on the break at all times for Horsham. He had two identical dangerous chances from long range, one forcing Carl Rushworth into a stop, and one whistling just over the bar.
The Mackerels were handed a route back into the game on the 64th minute, after the referee awatrded them a penalty. Pearce stepped up to take it, and cooly slot it home to the bottom right hand side.
Proceedings began to heat up after this, as tempers flared around the ground and strong challenges began flying in. Several yellow cards were issued in a matter of minutes, and the game showed signs of degenerating in a manner similar to the Boxing Day clash.
Hinshelwood decided to change things up, bringing on two players who would ultimately change the game, Marvin Armstrong and Reece Myles-Meekums. Armstrong’s dynamism and composure was immediately clear, as he began to carry the ball forward and link up the neat passing plays in order to fashion solid chances.
Soon after, the visitors had their equaliser. A brilliant passing move started with the defence and made its way up the left flank, oozing with flicks and 1-2s, and crawled its way along to the right hand side. Aguiar picked up the ball on the right flank and drilled in a low cross, which Bentley spilled and Pearce was on hand to grab his and Worthing’s second goal on 78 minutes.
Just moments later, the complexion of the tie would have completely changed were it not for Carl Rushworth. Roberts had the ball on the left flank, drove towards goal and rifled a shot towards the far post, which drew a world-class save from the Brighton loanee. The young keeper, who had been called up by the England under-19 squad, flung himself across goal to make the save and most definitely changed the course of the game.
Just minutes later, Worthing had their winner. Armstrong slipped Myles-Meekums through on goal, who took and touch and fired his shot into the roof of the net, to make the score 3-2 and complete the comeback.
The hosts had looked dangerous on the break all throughout the second half, especially through Pamment’s driving runs, and they set out to cause Worthing a very nervy final ten minutes. They even managed to find the back of the net after Pamment slotted home from close range, but the linesman had long since flagged for offside. In the closing moments, Dawson attempted to double his tally with an ambitious overhead kick, which looked dangerous right until it looped over Rushworth’s goal. That proved to be the final chance of the game, and the referee’s whistle was met with celebrations from the travelling Worthing support.
The tie was a far more level affair than the Boxing Day encounter, and ended up providing the crowd with plenty of entertainment and chances. Both sides would have been disappointed to lose, and the Horsham players will be wondering what went wrong.
The Mackerel Men will now play in the semi-finals of the Sussex Senior Cup, with the remaining quater-final ties to be played over the coming weeks.