The Worthing College Football Performance Programme 1st XI will rue missed opportunities as they missed out on the chance to play at Lilleshall after desperately losing 7-6 on penalties to Leeds City College in the ECFA National League Playoffs at Palatine Park last Wednesday.
Worthing started the game brightly on a testing pitch by mixing up their passing to get in behind their Yorkshire opponents with wingers Lee Mottershead and Ryan Fergany testing their opposing full backs at every opportunity. The first chance of the game came to Worthing via the penalty spot. A training ground corner from Dave O’Callaghan was beautifully delivered to the back post, where Joe Warner was just about to head on goal, but he was crudely taken out his marker. Unfortunately for Worthing Warner struck his spot kick at the Leeds goalkeeper to keep the scoreline blank.
This set back didn’t seem to deter Worthing and finally their dominance in possession paid off. Another training ground routine saw O’Callaghan clip a deep freekick into the path of Fergany, who swivelled his marker in the box and crossed for Warner to tap in to the delight of the 70 plus crowd, who braved the elements. After this the match seemed to settle down with neither side really creating any clear cut chances until Leeds got themselves back into the game. A wide cross was met by the onrushing Leeds full back who turned the ball past a still Jack Fagan in the Worthing goal just before centre half Matt Chester was about to head clear.
The words at half time were to keep playing the conditions and begin to believe that Worthing were a dominant force in the game rather than giving Leeds too much respect. As with the level of opposition and importance of the game Leeds were always in the tie and looked to threaten, especially down the wings, but the back four of Olly Setchell, Harlem Eubank, Matt Chester and Dan Heward continued to stand firm and allow Worthing to get on the ball and attack. In the Worthing goal Jack Fagan produced two great stops, one low and one high to keep the scores level.
Worthing continued to keep the shape and possession, which allowed Worthing to take the lead. Fergany again received the ball in a wide area, he twisted and turned to produce a deep cross from an almost impossible angle, which was met by Lewis Jenkins and his header was parried into the path of Warner, who took his tally to 21 goals in 21 appearances for the season. It looked like there would be only one winner as Worthing were now in command, however an individual error was to haunt Worthing and drew the sides level once again. Fergany worked back to track his man, only to play his pass blind into the path of the Leeds number 9 and he finished with aplomb, giving Fagan no chance.
Worthing again had to pick themselves up and they did this again with their intensity of play and excellent attitude. Another penalty was awarded when Mottershead was bundled over in the area from a throw in. Warner bravely put himself forward, but didn’t learn from his last penalty and yet again it was the Leeds stopper, who came out on top with a regulation save.
The tie moved into extra time, which was a tight affair as both sides were looking tired from their seasons exploits. The only real chances again came Worthing’s way with Fergany hitting the bar from a free kick and Jenkins being denied by the goalkeeper with an excellent stop. With the score 2-2 after extra time, penalties were to decide who would advance. Leeds took first and scored. Olly Setchell stepped up and equalised. Leeds scored. Jenkins saved. Leeds scored. Fergany scored. Leeds saved by Fagan! Leeds and Worthing’s Mottershead & Chester both scored to take it to sudden death. Leeds continued to keep their nerve with their first two scoring, but Worthing kept up with Heward and Eubank slotting home. Now it was getting down to those who didn’t want to take penalties and whilst Leeds scored their seventh out of eight the unfortunate Matt Hardman’s spot kick was saved sparking jubilant Yorkshire celebrations.
Each member of the Worthing squad were dejected and understandably so, which left Performance Programme coach Dave Hall to sum up proceedings; “The boys today were fantastic and in terms of their performance as a team and in their individuals positions we couldn’t have asked for much more. However at the level these players have reached this season if you miss opportunities, such as penalties in normal time you would have to expect the result to be in the balance. Its such a shame as this group of players in my opinion were good enough to progress, but in football you don’t always get what you deserve and that is why at times the game can be a cruel mistress. Don’t take anything away from Leeds as they definitely played their part in what was an excellent advert for National League Football.”
“In reflection this squad of players have played their part in another piece of Worthing College sporting history, which will never be forgotten because I don’t think there could be many sides to win their ECFA Regional League and then ECFA National League in back to back seasons and I don’t think will be achieved by any other side for a while as there are many established teams in these divisions, so great credit must go out to this group of players and it shows how good they have been as league championships are more of a yard stick as to how good a team is as it is about consistency across a season and add to this the County Cup the boys will be proud of their exploits and I hope that their development continues once they leave the programme, as there are many talented players in this area, who could play at high levels of the game if their potentials are realised.”
Hall also has an eye on the bigger picture and the future of the programme “The boys who are with us again next year will learn from this game and the season as a whole and it will hopefully put them in good stead for a second season in National League Football. Second seasons are usually extremely difficult and as like this season we will set our targets of maintaining our position at the top table in College football. The trials for next season also took place last week with 77 players being put through their paces, who all showed an excellent attitude along with a lot of talent and desire, so I’m looking forward to getting to work with the new look squad next season and hope to work with them to continue their footballing and academic development.”
Onwards & Upwards,