Report: A Starter For Ten

Worthing extended their lead at the top of the table to ten points after edging a closely-fought derby at a packed-out Dripping Pan.

Mens Full Time
1
Lewes
  • og (38')
2
Worthing
  • Kealy (32')
  • Starkey (77')
Isthmian Premier Division Saturday 5th March, 2022

Returning to league action after securing their place in this season’s Sussex Senior Cup Final – courtesy of a 5-0 hammering of Three Bridges on Tuesday night – Joel Colbran came back in for Luca Cocoracchio and the previously cup-tied James Beresford returned to take the place of the departed Davide Rodari. Dajon Golding and Marvin Armstrong resumed their roles as replacements, with Ollie Pearce and Jesse Starkey returning to the starting eleven. Luke Robinson was also recalled amongst the substitutes alongside Luca and Will Seager.

The action got underway early in front of a crowd just shy of two-and-a-half thousand, thanks to Starkey’s floated free-kick finding Aarran Racine at the back stick but Lewis Carey was able to drop and hold onto his header, as the Captain aimed it towards the far upright, three minutes in.

Rooks responded by way of recent signing Rhys Murrell-Williamson being released through the inside-right channel by Bradley Pritchard, before cutting inside and teeing-up Taylor Maloney for a shot that Harrison Male dealt with comfortably.

Reds were soon back on the attack when the irrepressible Colbran seized on the slightest of hesitations by Ollie Tanner in midfield. A driving run on the right culminated in a slide-rule pass into the area that Pearce almost casually but certainly calculatedly backheeled for Reece Myles-Meekums. Unfortunately for Meeky, Will Salmon was able to get across and deflect his effort over the bar to concede a corner.

Casey Pettit was too casual when giving the ball away cheaply to Jasper Pattenden, allowing the impish midfielder to power his way from the centre circle to the fringes of the penalty area. Whereupon he supplied Pearce to his left, only for Carey to parry and that man Salmon, again, to put it behind for a flag-kick.

Little more than a quarter of the way through this keenly-contested affair, the visitors created another good opportunity via the trusty left boot of Starkey. After Jesse and Cam Tutt did their best Red Arrows impression, Pearce played in the former to deliver a cross that Tom Carlse could only head as far as Myles-Meekums, who hit the ball as it dropped in the ‘d’, although on this occasion he caused more concern for Southern Rail than ‘keeper Carey.

A touch – or indeed two – of class finally broke the deadlock just past the half-hour mark and it originated from the reliable source of Colbran. Set free by a long ball from the back, Joel surged towards the eighteen yard box and swiped left for Pearce to hit a first-time pass over to Pattenden on the other side of the area. Two touches from JP led to two more from JC, rounded off by one delightfully flicked through the legs of Salmon by CK, as Callum Kealy put The Boys in Blue, in front.

However, the hosts soon equalised when the unfortunate Racine inadvertently diverted Tanner’s left wing delivery into his own net. In all fairness though, the build-up to the goal had seen Maloney get it going in his own half, Murrell-Williamson carry it on on the right and Pritchard eventually spread out to Tanner in a fine, flowing move.

Undeterred, the initiative was quickly back with Worthing as they had two, well one-and-a-half, opportunities to reassert their authority by heading into half-time with the advantage.

Kealy was a mere whisker away from pouncing on a dangerously-short back header to Carey, that had Carlse breathing a visibly huge sigh of relief.

A lung-busting run by Myles-Meekums then resulted in the rare sight of Pearce missing a gilt-edged opening, when slipped in by his teammate, only to slot the wrong side of the near post.

Less than a minute into the second forty-five, a neat and incisive one-two between Michael Klass and Murrell-Williamson saw the latter force Male to parry at his front stick at the expense of a flag-kick.

No sooner had the goal at one end been threatened, then the other end of the pitch had Myles-Meekums coming agonisingly close but Maloney was in the right pace at the right time to deal with the danger.

So, crisis averted for one team, although six hundred hearts were rapidly in mouths after a rare error by Racine presented Joe Taylor with a clear run down the left flank. He moved the ball onto Murrell-Williamson in the eighteen-yard area; his eventual effort blocked by Armstrong, leaving Beresford to complete the mopping up.

Lewes enjoyed a spell of pressure after that without managing to test Male in the guest’s goal, despite, at one point, Taylor latching onto Carey’s huge kick down the centre, tussling with Tutt but the referee being unmoved as both players ended up in a heap.

Goal number two would have been something of a blessed relief for either side and Starkey shanked a potential lead-restorer harmlessly past the upright, following Salmon’s blocking of Colbran’s edge-of-the-box effort.

Clearly though, our number eleven was simply using that “scuff” to cleverly mask what he was preparing to pull-off to far more devastating effect, seven minutes further on.

Pearce showed some nifty footwork to bamboozle Klass and, although Skipper Salmon got in the way of his subsequent shot, he could only deflect it into the path of Pattenden, whose no-look flick fell ideally for Starkey to flash a stunning left foot volley in off a helpless Carey’s right-hand upright.

One last attempt at salvaging a point rested on the shoulders of Tanner, only for his last ditch free-kick to bounce off the top of the crossbar and behind, to signal six points out of six for the table-toppers against their East Sussex neighbours.