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A Little Thriller (!)

Littlehampton Town and Worthing served up a seven-goal bonanza at The Sportsfield on Wednesday night, with Ollie Pearce at the double.

The action got underway after just five minutes, as Aaron Relf was forced to improvise with his right boot to prevent Harry Russell putting the hosts in front. While up the other end, opposite number, James Binfield had to come out of his goal quickly to punch clear, half a second before Tom Chalaye could open the scoring for the visitors.

Less than sixty seconds later, Dion Jarvis got the better of Ty Mthunzi and his cross led to a flying one-handed save from Relf to keep Russell out again.

It didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken and the unfortunate Mthunzi was at the centre of the action once more. His handball to take the sting out of former Red, Harrison Mott’s twenty-yard piledriver saw the referee point to the spot. Jordan Layton took the responsibility and, despite getting his right hand to it, Relf couldn’t quite stop the shot.

Things went quiet for a while until, on twenty-six minutes, a beautifully-played ball over the top of the defence by trialist, Charlie Osbourne set Pearce racing clear of the backline to slot home the equaliser.

It really should have been two for Worthing moments later, when Callum Litterick’s miscued clearance – against his old club – hit another trialist, Manny Tehe but he messed up a simple pass to his left that would have presented the returning Alex Parsons with an open goal.

With half-time approaching, Joel Colbran created two further chances for Pearce. The first with an Osbourne-inspired assist that Ollie slid inches past the far post and a second not long after, one along the ground, that ended up a fraction too high of the target.

A third for the Isthmian Premier guests nearly came down to a fluke when Jesse Starkey’s whipped right wing delivery almost caught out BInfield but the Marigolds netminder managed to backpedal and tip the ball over and out for a corner, to save any embarrassment.

One final attempt in the opening period fell to Ricky Aguiar – also making his pre-season debut for 2020-21 – as he drove forward from deep after dispossessing Mott, only to be denied by Binfield in the box and the scores remained level going into the break.

Fifteen minutes of inactivity failed to dampen the reflexes of Relf and they were certainly needed immediately after the resumption to avoid a low driven ball in from the right sneaking in at the base of his near upright.

A piece of ingenuity then put The Reds further ahead thanks to a stunning one-touch chest control, turn and dispatch into the back of the net past a, for once, motionless Binfield who could only watch and admire as Pearce emphatically took advantage of a left flank Aguiar free-kick.

Yellow’s custodian could count himself a tad unlucky not to set up a rapid riposte, when his huge clearance put substitute, George Gaskin in behind the Worthing rearguard where, in the end, it required a flicked Colbran header over his own bar to preserve his side’s advantage.

Quick-thinking by Starkey played in Tehe down the right but Binfield was there again to deny the young hopeful before Gaskin came within a whisker of connecting with Jordan Clarke’s dead-ball that flashed across the penalty area and, ultimately, safely out the other side.

Last-ditch defending was the order of the day with replacement, Owen Spicer needing to get his timing spot-on to stop Lucas Pattenden – introduced to the fray at half-time – from doing better than hitting the front post after a terrific run on the left.

That miss proved costly when the on trial Nick Dembele used his marker as a shield to curl a delightful effort around him and marginally inside the far upright.

However, Littlehampton weren’t going to take it lying down as the ever-dangerous Pattenden tore down the left again and Joe Benn could only manage to scuff his cross the wrong side of the back post.

The old mantra, “if at first you don’t succeed” though saw Pattenden, on this occasion, get past Spicer and despite striking the vertical woodwork once more, Benn gobbled up the rebound by smashing home to reduce the deficit to a mere one.

In keeping with the evening’s entertainment the respite was all too brief and the higher-league visitors soon regained their two-goal initiative. “Swiss Alex” (the Alex who turned out against Whitehawk at the weekend, not Parsons) had his route to goal brought to a halt by Binfield, unfairly in the ref’s eyes and a spot-kick was the outcome. The same player got back to his feet and sent the goalie the wrong way to put the seal on an away win.

Well, not quite!  You know who did his thing yet again, bursting through from inside his own half to (almost) team up with the prolific Benn to set the nerves jangling a little but that warning went unheeded when, a man who started last season at The Crucial Environmental Stadium, Sam Pidgeon stabbed home a close-range third for his teammates, two minutes from time.

Fortunately, it wasn’t enough and Worthing held on to make it a pre-season three out of three.

Match Report: Gareth Nicholas