Once again mass changes were the order of the day as only four of Saturday’s starters kept their places. Namely, Harrison Male/Marlet, Aarran Racine, Marvin Armstrong and Ollie Pearce as Luca Cocoracchio, Will Seager, Dean Cox, Luke Robinson and Reece Myles-Meekums dropped to the bench. Meaning recalls for Colbran, Tutt, Barker, Golding, Kealy, Beresford and Pattenden, with Manager Adam Hinshelwood rotating his squad again to keep everyone fresh.
Ultimately, the Red’s Boss was largely let down by his charges as too many had an off day.
Despite this, the visitors made the brighter start although they joined the hosts in struggling to create any decent chances.
Ollie Pearce looped one over a mildly relieved Lloyd Thomas and his net in an attempt to catch the Carshalton ‘keeper off his line early on, before Dajon Golding guided one wide and Danny Barker saw his close-ranger blocked in the box, following Colbran’s back post header at a Jasper Pattenden corner.
More than half-an-hour had elapsed when the deadlock was broken thanks to the reactions of Robins striker Harry Ottaway.
His reflexes proved to be sharper than anyone else’s in a crowded six yard area, after Ola Sogbanmu directed Tommy Bradford’s flag-kick into the unwitting face of Aarran Racine, via his dome, leaving Ottaway to pounce and put his side ahead.
Worthing were surprisingly slow to respond, indeed a full ten minutes went by until a twenty yard daisy cutter from Barker forced Thomas to put down his cup of tea and half-dunked digestive biscuit.
However, sixty seconds before the break, the home team failed to clear a Pattenden throw-in, yards from the corner flag, leaving Jasper, eventually, to fizz in a low cross that somehow evaded both the incoming Golding and Pearce as the pair tried desperately to salvage something out of a disappointing first-half.
Robinson and Myles-Meekums entered the fray shortly after the change of ends but it would be Kealy to force a fingertip save out of Thomas, via a fiercely struck effort from the edge of the penalty area, on the hour.
That faint flicker of hope was soon extinguished by Ottaway bagging his second of the game a short while later.
Eze Ebuzoeme played a tidy ball to Bradford inside the eighteen yard box, which the number nine laid back to Ottaway to drive low into the bottom corner and out of the reach of Marlet. (The name Male went by on Robins TV and over the tannoy.)
A sharp turn and shot by former Worthing trialist Danny Bassett was held by Marlet, sorry Male to deny Athletic’s top scorer the opportunity of putting the game to bed with more than twenty still to go.
Equally, Pearce’s left-footer, eighteen yards out, never looked like troubling the scoreboard either as Thomas too gathered safely at the other end.
Entering the final throes of the afternoon, it required a goal line clearance by Ebuzoeme to stop Barker’s header from crossing the line and offering late salvation to the boys in blue.
Then, Joel Colbran missed Thomas’s right-hand upright by a matter of inches with a half-volley that threatened to creep inside it.
Finally, Pearce battled his way to the byline before drilling in a delivery that Kealy smashed home from close-range and ensured a tense conclusion to proceedings.
Goal provider nearly turned goalscorer when Pearce threw himself at Cox’s cross to meet it with his bonce, only to nod over at the front stick as the referee signalled an additional five minutes for the league leaders to rescue a point.
Sadly, only a late flurry of bookings were noted, thanks partly to the time wasting tactics of the hosts in slowing things down, coupled with the guest’s subsequent frustrations getting the better of them.
A bad day for us but a still healthy seven point advantage over our nearest challengers means we go again on Saturday at East Thurrock United.