Two-and-a-half weeks after their last game, the visitors recalled Pat Webber, Will Seager, Callum Kealy and Jesse Starkey in place of Darren Budd, Dean Cox, the cup-tied James Beresford and Luke Robinson. Buddy and Coxy were joined on the bench by Ollie Starkey, alongside Dajon Golding and Alex Parsons.
Despite having the odds stacked heavily against them, it was the Isthmian League Champions who carved out the first real opportunity of the evening when Racine headed Jasper Pattenden’s left-wing corner wide of the target, just two minutes in.
A cagey affair saw little in terms of clear-cut chances until midway through the opening period, following a typically patient build-up from the back that finally culminated in Kealy releasing Reece Myles-Meekiums down the right flank. Reece cut inside and exchanged a delightful one-two with Ollie Pearce, taking his cheeky backheel in his stride before being upended in the box by Jack Hinchy.
Pearce himself stepped up to send goalkeeper James Beadle the wrong way from the spot and fire the underdogs in front.
Reds deserved their lead but nearly had it wiped out within a matter of minutes, as an unfortunate slip by Racine saw the Skipper lose his footing, allowing Tolaj a clear run at goal. However, the number nine was denied by the legs of Harrison Male and Pattenden was ideally placed to head clear, after Zak Sturge had returned the ball back into the danger zone.
Sadly, that let-off would be punished a mere five minutes further on, with Tolaj making no mistake via a stunning finish into the top corner. Some neat and incisive approach work resulted in the Swiss centre-forward staying onside to latch onto Sturge’s perfectly weighted pass from tight to the left touchline, before equalising with aplomb.
Worthing almost found themselves behind shortly afterwards, when Todd Miller nodded James Furlong’s left-sided delivery onto the top of the crossbar and behind for a much welcomed goal-kick.
Regrettably, they did when Will Seager took a heavy touch to a Joel Colbran throw-in on the far side and gifted possession straight to Miller, who instantly sent Tolaj racing away once more; holding off Will to blast low beyond a helpless Male from marginally outside the penalty area.
Despite suffering such a devastating blow, the twenty-one times winners responded through sheer persistence. Marvin Armstrong pounced on a loose ball in midfield and burst towards the eighteen yard box, where he laid the ball back for Kealy to blast over the bar, a smudging outside it.
The final throes of the first half resulted in Colbran using a second touch to get Pearce’s cross onto his favoured left foot, only to fire over the (goal) frame.
Then, in stoppage time, Captain Jack (Spong) lashed above the bar after receiving Cam Peupion’s pull-back.
Similarly to the opening stages of the first forty-five, it was the boys in red who were the first to show early into the second, thanks to more good work leading to Meekums spreading play out to Pattenden, in the inside-right channel. JP beat his marker Sturge, although couldn’t keep his angled shot down as he drove a powerful effort into the empty stands behind Beadle’s goal.
Sturge featured in a more positive manner approaching the hour mark, with his return pass to Furlong seeing the left-back pick out Spong in the area and the centre-half’s first touch taking him and the ball away from Jesse Starkey. Leaving an unmarked Peupion to calmly stroke home Albion’s third, with the aid of a slight deflection off Racine.
If Reds were on the ropes after that particular hit they were down on the canvas after a clearly onside Tolaj went from goal taker to goal maker.
Prodding a simple ball across to Andy Moran; the ten demonstrated some fine footwork to leave the incoming Pattenden and Armstrong in a heap before slotting in a fourth for the hosts.
Moran may have doubled his tally with less than a quarter of the contest remaining, only to pull his attempt the wrong side of the post from a fairly promising position.
The Irish youngster then tried to turn provider instead; setting up substitute Benecio Baker-Boaitey but the on loan Porto winger skied the ball up in the air and Male caught without alarm.
Eight minutes from time, Colbran set the cat amongst the pigeons by pulling one back. Burying Pattenden’s flag-kick from close range to give the guests hope.
That hope, however, would prove to be short lived. Moran broke over the halfway line and the recently introduced Marcus Ifill timed his run to perfection to stay on the right side of the defensive line. His route to goal unceremoniously ended by Pattenden’s last man foul.
In fact, by that point in proceedings both teams had been reduced to ten men, following a lengthy stoppage which eventually saw sub Baker-Boaitey stretchered off, moments earlier.