A clutch of Summer signings made their competitive debuts for the Reds, as only five faces remained from the team that started in last year’s corresponding fixture. Ellie Russell, Rachel Palmer, Hayley Bridge and Georgia Tibble were the “newbies.”
It was the Darts though who made the better beginning, when Emily Vaughan set up Lizzie Adams to blast over the bar, then showed her Captain how it should be done.
Receiving the ball directly from Charlie Torry’s throw-in on the right, she dragged it past Palmer before sweeping a shot effortlessly into the far top corner – just inside the penalty area – to leave goalkeeper Lauren Dolbear beaten all ends up.
That second minute strike stunned the visitors but they gradually grew into the game.
Grey skies soon turned blue and a piercing sun made life difficult, hence the midway mark of the first-half being reached prior to the away side announcing themselves as an attacking threat.
Commencing with Cooper in midfield, Katie supplied Sophie (Humphrey), building up to Bridge being beaten by a hair’s breadth to the ball by onrushing netminder Paris Smith.
Closer still to scoring were the Darts, thanks to Jo Woodgates whistling one millimeters over the goal frame after a half-cleared flag-kick fell kindly for her.
Chances were very much at a premium in the opening period.
Georgia Tibble’s foul on Nicha Dyett in the ‘d’ went unpunished via the subsequent set piece. Woodgates hitting the defensive wall then blazing over the crossbar on the follow-up.
Dyett then picked out Adams in the box but Dolbear dissipated the danger without any fuss.
However, once Ella Newman had got her eye in with a thirty yard screamer that flew (well) wide, the same player made no mistake in added time to level the score going into the break.
Torry lost out to the rapid runner and, like so many before – and after – she was left trailing in her wake, as Ella (eventually) burst into the eighteen yard box and beat Smith at her near post.
Worthing had to work hard for their reward and continued to make inroads into the heart of the home rearguard following the resumption.
A long pass along the right flank released Gemma Worsfold who pulled the ball back for Bridge to flash an effort across the face of goal, with last term’s runners-up responding through substitute Amy Panayi. Only for her inside-right free-kick to curl up and over both the wall and the target.
Less than twenty minutes were left on the clock when a breakaway culminated in a centrally-placed Tibble playing in Humphrey to her right, presenting an opportunity to surge into the area and slot into the opposite side of the net.
Half-time change Becs Bell might have extended the guest’s advantage when she did well to find enough room for an attempt that forced Smith to hold high, dangerously close to her own crossbar.
The last ten saw Humphrey race clear again, seizing on a slip by another replacement in the form of Issy Livett-Michalski. Her run led her across the top end of the eighteen yard area. where she squeezed herself between two Black and White striped shirts and effected cries of “penalty,” as she appeared to be clipped, which were turned down by the referee.
Red’s nemesis looked to maintain their unbeaten record against their Sussex-based opponents and the combination of Wife and Wife nearly blossomed into an equalizer.
On and off the pitch pair Lizzie and Alicia Adams teamed up to provide Panayi with panache. Sadly, there would be no happy ending this time with Panayi lifting her shot over the top, a yard or so outside the box.
Ski Sunday returned unseasonably early when Humphrey slalomed her way through the course to tee-up Bell, who raised the trajectory of her effort a touch too high.
Then, finally, into several additional minutes, even the long legs of interval inductee Katie Young couldn’t quite connect – coming in at the back stick – with Newman’s free-kick that would have put the icing on the cake.