Match Report: Gareth Nicholas
Worthing’s starting eleven featured its usual mix of youth and experience, with the presence of Aarran Racine, Darren Budd and Joel Colbran complemented by places for Hall, Owen Worsdell, Joe Alman and, for the first time, Fynn-Lee “Chopper” Chadwick.
Littlehampton meanwhile had many faces familiar to us, namely Lewis Jenkins, Harrison Mott, George Gaskin and substitutes Dave Herbert, Callum Litterick, Jack Newhouse and Marshall Ball; most of whom had come through our under-18’s.
Both teams had early chances to open the scoring; the pacy Lucas Pattenden beating Racine to the ball and racing clear, before setting up the usually prolific Joe Benn to stab over the bar from close range.
Then, Shaq Gwengwe seized on some hesitancy at the back and burst into the box, only to curl right-footed a whisker wide of the far top corner.
However, it didn’t take long to break the deadlock and it all started when Alman’s long pass to Kyle O’Brien sent the left-back scampering away down the left wing. He cut inside and found Gwengwe in the area with his back to goal. Unperturbed, the number nine simply held the ball up and proceeded to backheel it past a startled James Binfield in the Gold’s goal.
Despite this setback though, the hosts weren’t behind for very long and it was the rapidity of Benn that caused the Red’s backline further difficulties, by surging clear on the far side after latching onto Dion Jarvis’s ball over the top. His pace taking him past the visitors’ rearguard to slot home past Harrison Male and level the scores.
There appeared to be no way of stopping the rampaging Pattenden, for it was he again who flew down the right flank and sent a dangerous-looking cross into the eighteen yard box, only for it to eventually reach Jarvis and end up clearing the crossbar.
The newly-promoted hosts threatened to go in front just past the half-hour mark thanks to Gaskin’s lofted effort which allowed Benn to break but drag the wrong side of the upright.
Debut-making Chadwick went for the spectacular, following Captain Budd’s chip into the penalty area; unfortunately failing to trouble the scoreboard, as the away side hit back.
Buddy and Ty Mthunzi then combined to ensure they were the ones going into the half-time break with the advantage. One touching a centrally-placed free-kick to the other and winning a corner, after a deflection off the wall. Budd took the second set-piece and picked out Racine to head precisely just under the bar, despite the best efforts of Gaskin on the line.
Worthing were on top at this stage and that continued after the turnaround, with the energetic Budd rolling back the years to tee-up Mthunzi once more and seeing his header come back off the top of the target.
Reds then extended their lead when Gwengwe robbed the recently introduced Ball on the right and picked out the unmarked Hall to stroke home at the back stick.
It was four moments later with Hall pulling off a similar trick then evading three yellow shirts and finding the bottom corner.
Replacement, Tom Biggs side-footed a volley narrowly past the near upright after Gaskin had chipped across to him, before Male, single-handedly kept The Marigolds at bay.
Firstly, by getting down well to deny the returning Ball from the edge of the box and blocking bravely at his near post to prevent Pattenden reducing the deficit, inside the same sixty seconds.
Finally, his services were called upon for a third occasion, as Town’s relentless attacking period culminated in Jarvis unable to beat Worthing’s custodian either, when his goalbound attempt also found the safe hands of the man between the sticks.
Five minutes to go and there was still time for Hall to go home with matchball.
Fresh off the bench – and the seemingly never ending production line – Rocco Gamblin exchanged passes with the striker and was upended in the box by former Red, Mott. No doubt as to who would take responsibility for the spot-kick though and Hall confidently drilled the penalty past Binfield, to complete a well-deserved treble.
Gamblin almost doubled his assists tally, as the clock ticked down towards the end of the match, by giving Chadwick one last opportunity to make it a night to remember, even more. The unlucky Chopper clearing the crossbar at the opposite end of the pitch this time but failing to put a dampener on his overall performance.
Who said you’ll never win anything with kids?