This week the Performance Squad were in Under 18 ESFA National Cup action and it gave the younger squad members a chance to test themselves against local rivals City College Brighton and Hove with a place in Round 3 at stake.
Due to unfortunate news that it looks like Sam Marsden and Eddie Davis will be out for the foreseeable future, both with knee injuries the squads strength in depth was again to be tested. The squad saw left back Russell Cook make his comeback, Ross Edwards & Joel Davison sit into the centre of midfield, Dave Beaney & Scott Goodman starting in unfamiliar wide roles and Jordan Welch making his full debut at this level.
After a positive training game there was full confidence in the teams shape and capabilities and this showed from the positive start to the game. Edwards & Davison were playing some excellent stuff in the middle of the park, breaking up play and distributing the ball wide and at pace. Worthing quickly took the lead from a worked set piece, which ended up with skipper Matt Smith volleying towards goal and Edwards diverted the ball goal wards. 1-0 Worthing.
Worthing continued to take the game to City College, however there was potential for their Brighton opponents to attack, especially with their direct winger, whose run was stopped by Jack Punter, only for the Worthing man to be harsly penalised for handball. The conditions were blustery to say the least and this had a big hand in the reply. The angled free kick was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Mitchell Hartley. 1-1.
This didn’t deter Worthing and then again pressed forward with purpose and looked comfortable at the back with Smith and Josh Etherington in control. However City College stole the lead from the penalty spot after another positive run from the City College winger, only to be brought down by the unfortunate Jack Punter. 1-2.
At half time the players needed to be lifted as to their credit they had played extremely well in the conditions, but found themselves down by a goal. So the focus was to maintain standards and continue to be intelligent both in and out of possession.
The game kept a similar tempo and theme with Worthing being the team in command, however City College were at times dangerous. Beaney, Goodman and Hartley began to be more fluid with their play and were linking up well with Ryan Mackley, who replaced Jordan Welch at half time. Goodman & Beaney had strikes at goal, which didn’t trouble the City keeper, however Worthing were getting closer.
The equaliser came from another set piece. Dave Beaney stepped up and with all players looking for a cross, Beaney curled the ball into the far top corner. An exquisite finish 2-2. Again Worthing were playing a sensible game in terms of mixing up short, sharp passing with longer balls in behind to stretch their opponents. Good work from Hartley found Goodman in the penalty area, who drove home into the roof of the next for Worthing to deservedly take the lead.
In previous meetings these games have been tight and high scoring affairs and to their credit City College kept going and were working Worthing to get back into this Cup tie. This time Worthing were at their own undoing from a comfortable situation City College were level. Players watched Etherington win two headers, but they didn’t react quick enough before the City College number 9 drove the ball past Jimmy Punter 3-3.
Worthing needed to keep their composure and continue to play the way they have been and forget about the goals that had been conceded. More changes were made with Conor Bull making his debut, coming on for Harry Lewington, moving Dave Beaney back to centre half. It was the substitutes that were to win the game for Worthing.
Hartley slid the ball into Bull’s path and his first touch took him away from his opponent and his cross from the left was struck home at the second attempt by Mackley. 4-3. City College still had a chance to send the game to extra time, however Punter saved a 20-yard free kick and Worthing cleared the danger.
This result sees Worthing travel away to either Esher or Waltham Forest College in Round 3 and Performance Coach Dave Hall was extremely pleased despite the conceding of three goals;
“The lads again have shown their adaptability and character in different game situations. The weather conditions were difficult, however we played intelligent football and when behind and drawn level we had the quality and fitness to drive on to get the most important thing in cup games, which is the result. Another pleasing thing is that the debutants, first years and substitutes played their part to secure this result and it has been a great learning curve for this set of players, which they can take forward into their football development.”