Worthing took their first step to healing the disappointment of last season, beating Folkestone Invicta 2-1 to begin with a victory.
- Smith (67')
- Aguiar (41')
- Pearce (51')
Goals from Ricky Aguiar and Reece Meekums gave the Mackerel Men a two goal lead, and they held on for all three points after David Smith pulled one back.
The two sides had been fierce rivals last term in their quest for promotion, neck and neck right up until the season was ended prematurely. The Kent side won both meetings last season, but Adam Hinshelwood’s men found revenge in this opening day victory.
The home side shot out of the blocks, carving out a great chance in the opening seconds. Adem Ramadan tore down the right wing and delivered a low cross to the feet of Ian Draycott, whose powerful half-volley forced young goalkeeper Roco Rees into a smart stop from close range.
Worthing had a chance of their own moments later, as Jasper Pattenden helped Alex Parsons’ floated ball find its way to Ollie Pearce, who diverted the ball narrowly over the bar.
New arrival Shaquille Gwengue impressed in pre-season with his performance against Metropolitan Police, and showed early on just why Hinshelwood was so impressed. Again Parsons delivered a fine ball from the right, landing right on the head of the onrushing Gwengue, who deftly flicked the ball up and agonizingly over the crossbar.
After the end-to-end opening exchanges, both sides began to dig in and make life difficult for the other.
The lively Alfie Paxman had the Folkestone fans on their feet on the half hour mark, but the linesman’s flag turned their joy to disappointment. The wide man took control of a cross from the right and buried the ball in the bottom right corner, but Ramadan had strayed past the last defender before delivering his cross. With no video assistant referee to consult, the home fans were left empty-handed.
Paxman’s chance kicked the game into life, and the hosts had another golden opportunity to score. Worthing’s high press led to another breakaway opportunity for the hosts, and Ramadan played released David Smith in the penalty area. The striker took his chance first time, and saw his low strike thump against the foot of the far post.
The Mackerel Men answered Invicta’s challenge and began to open up the home defence. Ollie Pearce broke down the left and used a burst of pace to find himself 1-on-1 with Timothy Roberts, but the forward chose to lay off Parsons rather than take on the shot himself and the chance was squandered.
Just as the half threatened to end goalless, Ricky Aguiar found the net to break the deadlock. Marvin Armstrong drove through the Folkestone defence and made it to the byeline before rolling the ball invitingly across the face of goal. Reece Meekums pulled off a clever dummy, and the ball landed at the feet of Ricky Aguiar. Worthing’s Coaches’ Player of the Year made no mistake, planting the ball into the bottom left corner and scoring Worthing’s first goal of the campaign.
The Reds started the second half where they left off, causing Folkestone nothing but trouble in the final third.
Pearce had been causing problems down Invicta’s right flank all game, and once again found some space on the wing in a dangerous area. The forward slipped the ball through to Aguiar, whose powerful attempt struck Callum Davies’ body. The visitors were convinced Davies had used an arm, but the the referee was unmoved and awarded only a corner.
As it transpired, a corner was all Worthing required. Parsons delivered another delightful ball for Pearce, who met the ball with a ferocious diving header and slammed the ball into the roof of the net to double Worthing’s lead.
The frustration began to grow for the hosts, as the saw the game slip away from their grasp. The Kent side became sloppier, their shape looser and their tackles lazier, evidenced by quickfire bookings for Davies and Ronnie Dolan.
Debutant Gwengue had another great chance to open his account for the Mackerel Men. Meekums delivered a fizzing low cross from the touchline, landing at the outstretched leg of Gwengue, who couldn’t quite make full contact with the ball and his effort spun just wide.
Folkestone pulled a goal back after 70 minutes, as a lapse in concentration saw Smith through 1-on-1 with Rees. Smith remained composed, and curled his effort past the goalkeeper to cut the deficit.
The arrivals of Dajon Golding and Tom Chalaye added some energy for Hinshelwood’s side, the pair combining immediately to trouble Roberts’ goal. Chalaye pulled the ball back for Golding on the edge of the area, and the winger’s curling effort forced the goalkeeper to rapidly backpedal to keep the hosts in the game.
The visitors had to endure a nervy final 10 minutes of the game, but did enough to see the tie out and return to Sussex with all three points.
Hinshelwood will no doubt be pleased with the display from his injury-hit side, who managed to find a victory over Folkestone for the first time since March last year.
Folkestone fans will also have reason to be hopeful after a promising performance, particularly from the mercurial Paxman.