Worthing put out a similar side to that which started Tuesday’s win against Three Bridges, with the exception of two trialists and Cam Tutt. Their places were taken by Luca Cocoracchio alongside welcome returns for both Joel Colbran and James Beresford.
Albion also lined-up for this tea time test with an equally familiar eleven, including the Amex’s two-goal hero Lorent Tolaj up front and Hinsh Junior, Jack at the back.
An early offside curtailed the hosts ambitions in the very first minute of the match, only for the outcome to have more serious consequences at the other end.
Colbran calmly took the resulting free-kick, providing Cocoracchio with an opportunity to cut out the middleman and play forward early. This he did to devastating effect as his long ball caused consternation for the Seagulls’ centre-half, who’s tussle with Jake Robinson ran kindly for the ever-alert White to take on, round goalkeeper James Beadle and confidently beat the retreating defender Antef Tsoungui on the line to hand the visitors a well-deserved lead.
Although the advantage was almost wiped out two minutes later when a corner wasn’t properly cleared, leaving last man Tsoungui effectively defending at both ends of the pitch by half- volleying a Hinshelwood noddown over the top a few yards out.
A fine first-half performance saw Worthing more than match their (supposedly) more illustrious opponents. Indeed at times they were dictating proceedings through their quick, incisive passing.
Despite this, they still had to be alert to protect their own goal. This being ably illustrated around a quarter of the way through the contest thanks to a stunning touch and turn in one foul swoop leaving Beresford, for once, flummoxed though the chance wouldn’t quite be taken as Tolaj rolled it just past the far post.
Space briefly opened up for former Porto winger Benicio Baker-Boaitey – who had become a permanent signing since the two team’s last meeting back in May – but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
It then turned into bodies on the line time for the temporarily under the cosh travellers, with red shirts bravely throwing themselves in the way to turn late attempts by Matt Everitt and Todd Miller behind at the expense of flag-kicks that, ultimately, would lead to no further bombardment of Harrison Male’s net and the visiting Isthmian Champs took a narrow though well-deserved lead into the interval.
Like Tuesday night at The Crucial Environmental Stadium, the following forty-five saw multiple changes by both Bosses, as Andy Crofts enjoyed the luxury of being able to swap his entire team with a different eleven starters, while Red’s Supremo Adam Hinshelwood introduced a total of nine new faces during the second period.
One of those changes, Ollie Starkey came close to truly stamping his side’s authority on the early evening affair, following namesake Pearce’s corner, only to be frustrated at the back stick by custodian Killian Cahill getting himself between the ball and the upright.
A two-pronged Zak attack then threatened to turn the tide completely in the opposite direction.
However, this was Emmerson and not Newton for the homesters, as a neat twist on the edge of the box to get away from Cocoracchio enough to fire over the crossbar was followed by a low, right wing cross causing problems though not punished by the same player, moments later.
He made no mistake with a tad over twenty remaining though, when Worthing failed to clear a set-piece delivery, in the form of a corner, from the right once more and, despite the best efforts of netminder Male the ensuing scramble brought about a scrappy equaliser.
Less profitable was a cut in off the right flank and an off target swing that was far removed from a striker who boasted an impressive record of 18 goals in 22 appearances in the previous campaign.
The guests rearguard had been admirably marshalled by Cocoracchio and the hugely impressive Joe Rye; the only two men in red on the pitch for the full ninety.
Twelve minutes from time, last term’s under-16’s goalie Dan Gibson entered the fray and duly added his name to the list by pulling off three excellent saves.
After recovering well from a minor wobble, “Gibbo” kept out Ben Wilson’s long-range drive; diving to his lft to avert the danger before going full length again and doing likewise, thrusting up a strong right hand to ensure Leigh Kavanagh wasn’t about to steal victory either.
Finally, in the dying embers Wilson nearly turned provider, only for Gibson to be in the right place at the right time to put an end to what would prove to be the game’s last goalscoring opportunity; admirably beating away a front post attempt to leave things delicately poised and both benches (relatively) happy with a point a piece.