After his late heroics in Friday’s friendly with Brighton & Hove Albion, sixteen-year-old goalkeeper Dan Gibson made his first Senior start, while Reece Myles-Meekums and Callum Kealy were welcomed back into the fold.
Selsey, including former Red Ryan Morey, who was part of the 2015/16 promotion-winning squad were under the watchful eye of one time Woodside favourite Daren Pearce.
The game got off to a great start for the hosts as they shocked their higher league guests by taking the lead inside the opening two minutes.
A free-kick on the right went all the way over to Evan Harris on the far side of the penalty area; he promptly played it into the danger zone where a miscued clearance fell straight to Young Player of the Year Ollie Clarke, who didn’t need a second invitation to put the Blues in front.
Ten minutes later, Liam Bush was in the right place at the right time to clear a potential Myles-Meekums equaliser off the line, as the visitors struggled to get into their stride.
One of the aforementioned trialists, wearing number four, then headed a good opening over when failing to keep down an unmarked header, as he got on the end of a Meeky corner.
Another late intervention, this time from Players Player of the Year Corey Burns, prevented early sub Ollie Starkey (on to replace Kealy at the referee’s request) laying on the leveller for trialist no. 8.
After a midway mark drinks break, the man handed the shirt emblazoned with 11 on it’s reverse flashed a dangerous-looking delivery across the eighteen yard box but too quick for anyone to apply a finishing touch.
Then, the National League (South) new boys came within a whisker of squaring the score when “come in number three” took aim from distance and a wicked deflection resulted in his shot coming back off the ‘keeper’s near post, leaving the home supporter’s choice as the main man of last term Syd Davies continuing to keep a clean sheet.
Five minutes before the break, Kealy shifted the ball into enough space to fire goalwards, from the edge of the area, only for his effort to sail over the crossbar.
A near identical position provided an opportunity for our “unknown” #11 to tee-up fellow hopeful, #4 to try his luck but he too lifted his attempt over the target, just two minutes after the turnaround.
Drinks break #2 was preceded and succeeded by a number of changes on both sides and one of those, another graduate of last campaign’s talented under sixteens, Cavan Gratwick almost helped Reds draw level by slipping in Starkey. However, replacement custodian Jack White pulled off a fine save to preserve Selsey’s long-held lead, with the also recently introduced Billy-George Fuller heading the subsequent flag-kick wide for good measure.
Gratwick did have a hand in the strike that finally saw Worthing making proceedings all square, though, following a delightful backheel by Red #7 that young Cav threaded through the eye of a needle for half-time substitute Mo Jammeh to guide home.
The Gratwick-Jammeh partnership nearly bore fruit once more moments later but White was having none of it, as he maintained the status quo with a second top stop of the afternoon from the Academy graduate affectionately known as “Uncle Mo”.
Despite being under the cosh for the majority of the closing forty-five, last year’s top scorerJack North was a whisker away from sealing an upset. Battling to get ahead of Owen Spicer, the forward managed to achieve his aim, only to watch on helplessly as his shot drifted agonisingly past the back stick.
It then required a last ditch block by Managers Player of 2021-22, Dale Hayes to divert Gratwick’s last minute effort behind for a corner and seal a place in next weekend’s Dave Kew Cup Final against Chichester City.