Both sides began this game in lively fashion, suggesting a good contest was in the offing. Worthing struck first, Luca Allen showing some trickery down the left flank to twist his marker inside out, with his cutback from the byline being diverted into the net by a Horsham defender. Though the young Rebels gradually began to have the greater share of possession, the visitors continued to look a threat. On 20 minutes, a brisk counter attack culminated in a shot from the edge of the box by Colombini – this looked to take a slight deflection as it looped over Dan Gibson to draw the Hornets level.
Colombini had another opportunity seconds later, only to skew his effort into the side-netting. In the 26th minute, Horsham lost possession on the edge of their area, Stan Berry was on the premises to pick up the pieces, and he didn’t need asking twice to rifle the ball home to restore Worthing’s lead. Stan almost claimed his second shortly afterwards, finding himself in space on the right, his attempt from a ridiculously tight angle going just wide of the far post. The Reds notched their 3rd of the evening on 40 minutes, Stan this time turning provider, as he wriggled past a couple of defenders to supply Cavan with a simple finish.
Despite the two goal cushion at the interval, the pervading feeling was that the three league points were still far from secure. And this feeling grew as the second half progressed, Worthing proving sloppy in possession and Horsham beginning to dominate in terms of territorial advantage and chances created. In the 64th minute, Hayes unleashed a fine shot from just outside the box, the ball flying into the top corner to reduce the arrears. 3-2 and game on. Things became increasingly feisty on the pitch – a number of robust challenges continued to go unpunished by the referee, although his leniency finally evaporated when booking Harry Merritt-Blann for grappling Wallace in the 75th minute.
A goalmouth scramble in the 78th minute almost saw the Hornets draw level, but somehow it wouldn’t go in, big Dan eventually able to smother the ball and defuse the danger. This was still anyone’s game, and happily for Worthing, anyone turned out to be Luca. Having been largely on the periphery of affairs since creating the first goal, he exploded into life in the 84th minute, a powerful run seeing him shrug off the attempted challenges of several Horsham players, working just enough space to smash the ball in off the post from about 15 yards out. The visitors had a very big shout for a handball in the Worthing box soon after, but the referee was unmoved, to widespread bemusement.
So the young Rebels claimed the league points with a 4-2 victory to keep up the pressure at the head of the league table, but they were given a very stern examination by a capable and determined Horsham outfit. The pattern in home league games continues to be ‘first half good, second half not so good’, and the lads will need to find ways of shedding this apparent tribute to Sven-Goran Eriksson if they are to mount a sustained title challenge.