After seeing off Seaford Town in the Sussex Senior Cup on Tuesday, the hosts were back to a more familiar looking line-up, with Dean Cox and Marvin Armstrong – in for Pat Webber and Jasper Pattenden – the only changes to the side that started against Cheshunt.
On a bitterly cold day, accompanied by a tremendously strong wind, either of the two combatants might have taken an early lead.
Ten minutes into the contest, Jesse Starkey’s right-sided corner led to Captain Aarran Racine peeling away from his marker Ed Harris on the edge of the box, only to side-foot wide of the far post when he just needed to get it on target.
Then, less than sixty seconds later, visiting Skipper Barry Fuller’s free-kick caused problems; Alfie Rutherford eventually heading the ball forward for Matt Briggs to drive a good chance narrowly the wrong side of the upright, a yard inside the area.
Ollie Pearce went for the spectacular as his overhead kick flashed past the post, from another Starkey flag-kick, approaching the midway point of the first-half.
Chances continued to come and go at both ends but it was Harrison Male who was the first of the two goalkeepers to be forced into an actual save, when he parried James McShane’s close range effort after Harris had flicked on a long throw.
However, Rutherford gave him no chance shortly before the break, once he’d stayed onside and cut in off the left wing to fire a beauty beyond the Worthing custodian into the far side of the net, a fraction outside the penalty box.
Reds responded via a long pass by Pearce picking out the run of Dajon Golding who advanced to the eighteen yard area, only to drill across the face of goal and out the other side for a goal-kick.
Almost an hour into the contest, Rutherford nearly had an assist to add to his goal, after he teed up Josh Taylor for a shot that Joel Colbran slid in to block inside the ‘d’.
Cox will have been disappointed not to have equalised moments later, following Colbran close to the right-hand touchline, feeding Pearce to guide through the legs of first-half substitute David Ray on the edge of the area; his left footed attempt pushed away by Stuart Nelson.
Colbran and Pearce linked up well again on the hour mark; this time a delightful reverse flick through the legs of former home favourite Kane Wills released Armstrong into the danger zone. Unfortunately, despite holding off the close attentions of both Niall McManus and Ray, the tricky midfielder couldn’t quite beat Nelson as he found the side netting.
The Woodsiders came even closer to levelling the scores a little while later, with Racine getting on the end of Cox’s corner, only to see his header cleared off the line by Fuller at the upright.
Regrettably, they were made to pay for their (relative) profligacy in front of a goal with around twenty-five minutes to go.
McShane’s long ball from virtually the halfway line set Briggs surging into the eighteen yard area, where he got to the pass a fraction ahead of the outcoming Male and laid across to an unmarked Rutherford to tap in number two.
Refusing to lie down though, Reece Myles-Meekums was only a whisker away from getting us right back into the match; sliding in but not quite able to apply the finishing touch to Cam Tutt’s low, fizzing delivery.
After his earlier intervention to keep out Racine, Fuller pulled off a similar move to frustrate Golding. Cox freed Pearce to make up ground before sending over a low cross that resulted in the Captain’s last ditch tackle conceding a flag-kick.
Once again, the set-piece was met by the dome of home Captain Racine, who failed to keep his attempt down.
Wanderers looked to put the game to bed via sub Jason Prior’s flicked header and Rutherord lifting the ball over Racine to get Briggs motoring into the box, where he drew a fine stop out of Male with a powerfully-struck low effort.
The clock was ticking but still the hosts were unable to find that elusive goal.
It nearly arrived through Myles-Meekums, only for Nelson to deny him at close-quarters as he sent Starkey’s deep delivery towards the target, with no one around him.
Small margins prevented Racine nodding in Starkey’s free-kick and Briggs dispossessed Tutt on the right-hand line of the eighteen yard box to gift Prior, in space, a clear opening that he blazed over the bar.
The final opportunity of the afternoon presented itself to Briggs, as he too managed to miss the top of the target; timing his arrival into the area nicely although unable to keep his fearsome strike at the right height, following Racine’s headed clearance from a flag-kick dropping into a vacancy in the penalty area.