The Rebels welcomed the Hawks to Woodside on Non-League Day with both playoff hopefuls looking to end poor runs of form.
The home side were winless in their last five outings, while Havant & Waterlooville’s winless run stretched to eight games before today.
Adam Hinshelwood made four changes to his side that lost away to Chelmsford last week, with Joe Rye, Kane Wills and Ibby Akanbi returning to the side along with Ebbsfleet loanee Jack Paxman who made his first start since signing on loan.
It was the visitors who started the strongest and had their first chance inside the first ten minutes after Joel Colbran tripped Muhammadu Faal on the edge of the box and received a yellow card. Josh Passley took the free kick but hit it over.
On 13 minutes, the Rebels created their first opportunity when Ollie Pearce fired towards goal, straight into the path of Ibby Akanbi who deflected it, forcing a reflex save from Teddy Sharman-Lowe, diving to his right.
Worthing’s best chance of the half came on 24 minutes when Paxman cut back to Mo Dabre. The Swindon Town loanee saw his shot deflected wide off the heels of his teammate, Akanbi.
Up the other end, Charlie Ruff forced a one-handed stop from Harrison Male, tipping over for a Hawks corner.
The corner came in towards Jake McCarthy who missed his header, but James Roberts kept the ball alive by firing towards goal. After a deflection, the ball fell straight to Faal who fired in despite Colbran’s best efforts to clear off the line.
Soon after, Danny Wright missed a chance to double the visitors’ advantage by firing wide of the upright.
The Hawks began to display their frailties at the back with a succession of loose passes providing chances for the Rebels to advance forward but the home side couldn’t create anything clear-cut.
Roberts went close just before half time for the Hawks after cutting onto his left foot, but his shot hit the side netting and the away side had a one-goal advantage at the break.
After picking up a booking for bringing down Ruff on the break, Dabre was replaced by Rodari for the Rebels on 52 minutes.
The substitute made an instant impact by heading home the equaliser just three minutes after coming on. Wills spread play wide to Colbran who delivered a glorious cross to the unmarked Rodari in the area and the forward headed past the desperate dive of Sharman-Lowe.
It was a cagey affair after the equaliser with both sides looking to end their poor form and neither side wanting to lose the contest and as a result, chances were limited.
Hinshelwood opted for the fresh legs of Reece Meekums on 66 minutes, replacing Suk-jae Lee.
The drama unfolded on 80 minutes when Akanbi’s shot at goal was blocked by the arm of Hawks defender, Sam Magri, and the referee pointed to the spot. Pearce stepped up and blasted in his 19th goal of the season straight down the middle to give the Rebels the advantage heading into the late stages.
Looking to shut up shop, Hinshelwood replaced the debutant Paxman after an impressive display with Danny Barker in midfield in the 85th minute.
But the next passage of play saw the Reds add a third, and in fine fashion! Wills found himself in space some 25 yards out and decided to try his luck, firing in low into the bottom left corner and there was a sense of relief amongst the home support with the two-goal advantage.
However, the Hawks soon got a goal back through McCarthy who beat Male at his near post with a fierce effort to set up a grandstand finish at The Crucial Environmental Stadium.
Four minutes of added time came and went for the visitors as McCarthy’s late strike proved to be no more than a consolation and the Rebels secured a well-needed three points to keep them in the playoff places in the National League South.
The Reds are back in action next week as they make the trip to Farnborough on Saturday.