Pat Webber, Will Seager and Luke Robinson were all recalled to the starting line-up after commencing last week’s win over Wingate & Finchley on the bench. Meaning places on it for Marvin Armstrong, Cam Tutt and Jasper Pattenden alongside the fit-again Myles-Meekums and new loan signing Davide Rodari. There was no place in the squad at all for James Beresford, Dean Cox or Darren Budd, such is it’s strength in depth these days.
Worthing dominated possession in the opening half-hour but struggled to create many clear cut chances.
This despite Pearce taking just four minutes to round on loan Chelsea goalkeeper Sami Tlemcani but narrowly fail to convert from a tight angle.
The next opportunity to test the debutant number one came via the unlikely source of centre-back Webber, who picked up a loose clearance to fire a rocket inches over the target.
Defenders continued to show the strikers how to (almost) do it when Joel Colbran came closer than anyone to breaking the deadlock, with a long-range screamer that smacked against the underside of the crossbar and down but not over the line and Merstham were able to clear the danger.
Reds started to use their heads after that, literally, as both Dajon Golding and Webber himself had efforts go over the top off their noggins.
In fact it was Webber who used his pace to get down the left flank before sending in a cross for DG to glance above the bar, with his back largely to goal.
Then, getting on the end of Jesse Starkey’s free-kick to nod some way over shortly afterwards.
On a decidedly chilly afternoon in which a near four-hundred strong crowd were battered by strong winds, it was the hosts that nearly upset the applecart in the first few minutes of the second period.
Dylan Adjei-Hersey flashing a dead-ball delivery fractionally the wrong side of the upright.
Italian-born forward Rodari was thrown on for his maiden appearance in a particular red shirt in place of the in-effective Robinson, although it soon needed some alert goalkeeping from Harrison Male to maintain the status quo.
Fellow sub Luke Cook, on in the latter stages of the first forty-five for Charlie Greenwood, latched onto a delightful through ball to burst into the area. However, Male was out smartly to not only deny him but also his teammate Adjei-Hersey on the follow-up.
A little more than ninety seconds later, Cook versus Male round two resulted in a similar outcome, as our custodian frustrated the man in amber again.
This time, a half-cleared left wing cross went straight to the home team’s fourteen, only for his well-struck attempt from distance to bring the best out of the visitor’s netminder by means of a fine low save.
Long-range shooting seemed to be the order of the day and goal machine Pearce was quick on the uptake moments later, to give his side the lead.
Picking up possession a full thirty yards out, a touch or two further forward was all it took for Ollie to unleash the beast; beating the despairing dive of Tlemcani, with a little help off the inside of the post.
It almost became two-nil on the hour, as Golding showed good strength to hold the ball up before teeing-up Colbran for a blast that Tlemcani did well to parry at his front stick.
Neither team could muster a shot worthy of the name for a long time after that as the game turned scrappy for a while, until six minutes from time when the seal was put on the three points, thanks to Myles-Meekums and a little help from Pearce.
Reece’s introduction, in place of Callum Kealy, had occurred just a dozen minutes earlier but it wasn’t long before he got his name on the scoresheet. Illustrating the art of anticipation perfectly by pouncing on Tlemani’s stopping of Ollie’s low, centrally-placed set-piece to get to the loose ball ahead of anyone else and bury it at the back stick.
Stoppages at the end of the match brought about one last chance each.
Worthing gave away a flag-kick that Ayman Gharbaoui failed to take advantage of, when the guests struggled to clear their lines; presenting an opportunity for Male to be tested one last time. A long distance attempt doing anything but as it sailed over it’s intended target.
Finally, a counter-attack eventually led to Pearce casually, caressing a curler up and over from a positive position in the inside-left channel, with maximum points heading back to the South Coast following a hard-fought battle for them.