Match Report: Gareth Nicholas
Worthing handed a debut to one recent signing in the shape of former Albion and Leyton Orient favourite, Dean Cox but a late injury suffered in the warm-up prevented the returning Pat Webber from making his. Luca Cocoracchio promoted off the sub’s bench to start instead.
The visitors fielded a number of ex-homers; Brannon O’Neill, Curt Gayler, Mason Doughty and later Kieran Thorp and John Lansdale, while another, Manager Jamie Crellin was in charge on the sidelines rather than the pitch.
On a balmy Summer’s evening a crowd (!) of nearly five hundred people were treated to a lightning-fast opening spell by the hosts.
The first attack produced the first goal as Cox’s corner on the left was headed down and in by Captain, Aarran Racine from six yards out on the right, with just four minutes having elapsed.
There was only a further seven to wait before the advantage was doubled thanks again, in part, to that man Cox. His deflected pass dropped nicely for Ollie Pearce to send in a low delivery that Jasper Pattenden tapped in for number two.
Worthing were relentless in their attacking play and a poor clearance by Bridges’ goalkeeper, Leo Anderson was soon pounced on by Pearce who, this time, took it upon himself to burst forward and blast past the helpless netminder to further stamp his side’s authority on the game.
A rare mistake by Harrison Male almost saw him gift a goal back, as the home custodian gave possession straight to full-back, Gianni Ashley who supplied a centrally-placed Gayler with a shooting opportunity that he curled wide from twenty yards.
Normal service resumed shortly afterwards though, when Cox and Pearce linked-up once more; allowing Ollie to neatly sidestep a defender and lay the ball on a plate for Jesse Starkey to slot a fourth.
There was still time for a fifth before the break as Ricky Aguiar flicked a perfect pass over the top into the path of Pearce, who bore down on the target and drove his effort through the legs of Anderson, who, by now must have been regretting wearing the number thirteen shirt.
The half drew to a close with Pearce coming close to completing his hat-trick when he fired a free-kick narrowly wide, twenty-five yards out.
Shaq Gwengwe and Ahmed Kamil-Hassan came on at the interval and it was the former who so nearly made an instant impact. Capitalising on an underhit return to new netminder, Thorp he could only watch in anguish as his attempt struck the far post, in the opening seconds.
Male was then forced into his first serious save of the night, when the experienced Tom Tolfrey showed his strength to force Worthing’s goalie into a smart stop and smother by the base of his near upright.
A tremendous piece of pace, skill and tenacity then saw Gwengwe away down the left where two blue defenders tried to shepherd the ball out of play; only for Shaq to attack and nick it off the pair of them before stinging the palms of Thorpe at his front stick.
The visitor’s protector also had to be alert soon after to parry an Aguiar set-piece from the edge of the penalty area.
However, he could do nothing to stop the impudent Pattenden grabbing his second of the match, as the flame-haired winger cut in off the left flank and arced a stunning finish up and over the man in purple, into the far top corner.
A good run by substitute, Reece Myles-Meekums – on in the first-half for Cox – gave fellow replacement, Kamil-Hassan the chance to get his name on the scoresheet, only for Thorpe to deny him via an outstretched boot.
Further changes had seen Lansdale come on for the guests and turn the game in their favour and it was his well-struck volley, following O’Neill’s free-kick rebounding off the defensive wall, that drew a fine save out of Male.
Five minutes later and Male’s place had been taken by Giannis Boda, who did well to recover and pounce on the ball at the second time of asking, before the incoming striker could capitalize, after Lansdale’s driven effort threatened to catch him out.
The former Woodside favourite wasn’t to be denied much longer though; his low centre nudged over the line by an unnamed trialist and confirmed as such by the near-side assistant referee.
Gwengwe’s unwavering energy saw the victors have the final say by empowering sub Kyle O’Brien to (almost) cross for the almost unthinkable – a Darren Budd headed goal!
Unfortunately and sadly however, it wasn’t to be, as the experienced campaigner nodded fractionally the wrong side of the back post.