Following on from the Sussex Senior Cup win over Lewes ten days earlier, Tuesday’s tussle saw the returns of Danny Barker, Marvin Armstrong and Jasper Pattenden alongside recent signing James Beresford. Fellow newbie Luke Robinson had to be content with a place on the bench to begin with.
Worthing made a slow start, as Ollie Pearce’s eighteenth minute attempt at the spectacular didn’t quite go according to plan; the in-form striker not quite making a clean enough contact to prevent a simple catch for Rocks’ ‘keeper Amadou Tangara. Beresford’s flag-kick providing the opportunity.
Less than a minute later, the hosts were in front thanks to an outstanding finish by Jordy Mongoy. A long pass through the inside-left channel released the number eleven, who took the ball on and calmly stroked a lofted effort from a right angle over a stranded Harrison Male, after the goalie had come to the edge of the penalty area before rapidly starting to backtrack.
The visitors struggled to conjure up much of a response, taking until the half-hour mark before Pearce (again) had a sight of goal.
Reece Myles-Meekums was brought down by Charlie Bell, who picked up a yellow card into the bargain. Unfortunately, Ollie’s centrally-placed free-kick, a few yards outside the box sailed over both target and stand.
Pearce then turned provider, ten minutes from half-time.
Joe Cook fouled Armstrong, with a quick-thinking Pattenden releasing the forward on the left, from where he sent in a low delivery into the danger zone for Callum Kealy to turn and bury beyond Tangara in a flash.
Moments prior to the referee blowing for the break, a Cook-led counter attack eventually led to Armstrong’s clearance only reaching Ethan Robb. His skimming long-ranger resulting in a goal-kick, despite the protests of one or two in white.
Soon after the turnaround, Male made the decision to leave his eighteen yard box again but got it spot on this time, as he pumped a long ball out of defence straight back to whence it had come.
Pearce alert to the opening but a combination of Tangara and Joe Dandy conspired to frustrate.
A reinvigorated Reds barely allowed their South Coast rivals out of their own half in the second period.
Emphasised via Joel Colbran nudging possession to Aarran Racine who spotted and found Pattenden on the opposite side to the dugouts, with pinpoint accuracy. Jasper scurrying away, cutting inside Jake Flannigan and fizzing a shot across the face of goal and out the other side.
Tangara denied Kealy with his legs and Mongoy ended a promising move with an effort into Male’s midriff, in a rare forward foray.
Shortly past the hour mark, Worthing edged themselves in front, with that man Pearce at the forefront once more.
A jinking dribble saw him ghost past Harvey Hughes but have his progress aborted by the dangling leg of Robb, who was cautioned as well as conceding a spot-kick. No need to ask who was going to take it as regular penalty predator, the aforementioned Mr. Pearce stepped up and dispatched from twelve yards to the delight of the travelling masses.
Father Christmas still had one more gift to give and it arrived through the medium of Marv.
Armstrong charging up the pitch like an energy-infused reindeer from his own ‘d’, then supplying Santa’s little helper, in the form of the recently-introduced Dajon Golding. He took it on into the eighteen yard box, only for Tangara – Scrooge-like – to beat away his attempt at the near post. Undeterred and composure immediately restored, a pirouette and simple though effective pass for the incoming Myles-Meekums to burst to the byline with, concluded with the winger driving the ball across for Pearce to arrive in the six yard area and apply the coup-de-gras.
Tangara versus Golding take two produced a similar outcome when the home netminder thwarted his adversary with a smart smothering stop, after a role-reversal meant that Meeky became the creator, as the clock drew closer to ninety.
The matchball nearly joined the three points in heading back along the A259 as, not for the first time, Myles-Meekums caused mayhem with a cross that Cook could only glance as far as Pearce who blasted goalwards, only to be kept out by an impressive parry from Tangara.
Seconds remained when another lightning-fast break paired excellent link-up play between Golding, Beresford and Armstrong with a precise Pearce pass that Tangara just got to, a fraction in front of Dajon to gather and hold.
Substitutes, Pat Webber and Robinson were also prevented from adding to the score; Tangara at the heart of the action on both occasions.