Worthing defeated Sussex rivals Lewes 3-1 at The Dripping Pan, to secure their first win in four.
- Golding (41')
- Hunte (22')
- Aguiar (58')
- Pattenden (60')
The Mackerel Men had gone into the game in poor form, after a very impressive unbeaten run had been ended by three straight defeats, but this victory extends their lead at the top of the table to five points.
This victory is Worthing’s fifth over fellow Sussex sides this season, with just Horsham left to play to complete a clean sweep.
The remnants of Storm Dennis had threatened to put a stop to the game, but the pitch held up and the match went ahead at a viciously windy Dripping Pan.
Lewes were on the back foot straight away as the hosts were forced into a very early change, the injured Gary Noel making way for Tony Halsey.
The first chance of the game fell to the Mackerel Men, through Dulwich Hamlet loanee Connor Hunte. Ollie Pearce had opened up some space on the left flank and played a delicious ball across the box to Hunte, who fired a shot narrowly over the bar from 20 yards.
Jasper Pattenden, a late replacement for the injured Joel Colbran, showed some fantastic trickery to shimmy past two men and float a ball across for Ollie Pearce, who couldn’t get enough of a contact on his glancing header to trouble the goalkeeper.
Worthing should have taken the lead after 12 minutes, and would have done had Pearce composed himself more quickly. The striker harried the Lewes back line and managed to nick the ball right in the opposition box, but he dragged his 1-on-1 shot wide of the post.
Lewes had a golden chance of their own just moments later. The hosts broke down the left through Dayshonne Golding, who floated an inch-perfect cross into the feet of the unmarked Halsey, but the substitute scuffed his chance.
Worthing had their opener after just 20 minutes. A promising break saw the ball spread wide to Hunte on the right wing, who ignored the screams of his teammates and just kept on drifting towards the centre, before firing a low strike into the back of the net.
The visitors went close again through Ricky Aguiar, the midfielder forcing a great diving stop out of keeper Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke. Pearce looked like he was getting on the rebound and looked certain to score, but the Lewes defence cleared their lines.
Goalkeeper Carl Rushworth showed once again why he is so highly rated, pulling out a fantastic diving stop to keep out a Lewes free kick that looked destined for the top corner.
Just before the break, Lewes had found an equaliser. The ball fell to Golding’s feet deep inside the Worthing box, and the winger made no mistake from 6 yards out.
Despite Worthing’s dominance, the first period ended all square. Golding had looked like the man to make something happen for the hosts, and his late strike ensured the Mackerel Men a challenging second half.
Lewes started the second half brightly, putting Rushworth’s goal under pressure from the get-go. James Hammond went closest to breaking the deadlock, striking a half volley from close range that was deflected inches wide of the post.
Despite the hosts’ early pressure, Worthing found the breakthrough and found the lead. Reece Meekums chipped the ball across the box to the feet of the onrushing Aguiar, who buried the ball into the bottom right corner.
Moments later, two became three. A Lewes defensive error allowed Worthing possesion deep in dangerous territory, and Reece Meekums found the space to pull the ball back for Pattenden. The winger’s first effort was blocked, but he made no mistake from the rebound, blasting the ball into the roof of the net and doubling Worthing’s lead.
The game began to slow down in the wake of it’s fourth goal, as both sides struggled to find clear-cut chances. The windy conditions certainly played their part, with more of the action coming from big challenges and unpredictable balls in the air than from shooting chances.
Rushworth was once again called into action with 10 minutes to go, with defender Thomas Day’s towering header drawing him into a fine save low to his left.
A late goalmouth scramble threatened to give Worthing a scare as the game drew to a close. Lewes had a succession of shots saved and blocked before the ball fell to Aaron Cosgrave, who carved out some space in the box and looked certain to score from 10 yards out, until Aarran Racine bowled in and made a brave last-ditch block.
That proved to be the final chance of the game, with the referee’s whistle marking a return to winning ways for the Mackerel Men. While the visitors were the better side, Lewes did not roll over, and gave their Sussex rivals a tough challenge in tough conditions.