After a very positive first half term the Men’s Football Performance Programme were looking to add to this by making the ESFA National Cup Last 16. In their way was an extremely difficult away tie in East London against Waltham Forest.
After a positive warm up Worthing wanted to make sure that they earned the right to play and at the same time keep a very disciplined approach, especially playing away from home. Their hosts were very good technically, looking to play out from the back and commit defenders in attacking positions. To their credit Worthing set their stall out early with the in form Harry Russell not giving the centre halves a moments peace in combination with Scott Goodman and Mitchell Hartley forcing Waltham to play to ball long and therefore make it a 50-50 chance of regaining possession.
Despite this Waltham did have a lion’s share of possession, but with little end product. Through balls were more often than not dealt with by the back four of Jack Punter, Matt Smith, Dave Beaney and the returning Scott Rafferty. When Waltham did have a chance at goal Jimmy Punter stayed strong and was sensible in his distribution and conducting of play from the back.
Chances in the first half were at a premium, but Worthing began to find joy by pressing the ball high and turning round their opponents, especially with the pace and power of Russell. Ross Edwards playing in a more advanced position began to get into the game and had a goal bound shot blocked. Waltham looked dangerous with their midfield pairing looking to probe and create. However Oscar Gamble and Joel Davison were not willing to give them a free ride with constant pressure to cause Waltham errors.
With Worthing’s focus and discipline it was only going to be a matter of time before they created a clear cut chance. This came with 10 minutes to go before the break. A through ball from midfield was taken on by Harry Russell, who committed the Waltham keeper and skilfully chipped the ball over the advancing keeper into the net. 1-0.
This is how the score stayed until half time. Worthing had put everything into the first half both physically and mentally, which needed to be maintained in a tight and high quality contest, with each player leaving everything on the pitch with no regrets.
Waltham seemed a little frustrated with their efforts and this showed by their approach being a bit more direct and rushed. However their striker was looking to drop deeper and run at the Worthing back line, who again were standing firm. Punter needed to make a fine save with his legs to keep the Worthing lead.
With Waltham’s high line Worthing were always going to look dangerous on the break. Substitute Magic Sinbanda had a golden opportunity to double the lead after a Hartley pass, but his side footed effort was high and wide with the goalkeeper scrambling.
As time was wearing on Waltham seemed to be squandering opportunities to shoot on goal, which was to Worthing’s advantage and it was that man Russell, who booked Worthing’s place in the last 16 with a great run and looping header from a Dave Beaney free kick. Worthing then saw out the final 7 minutes to secure a well disciplined and intelligent performance.
Performance Programme Coach again was pleased with the different side to their game the squad showed “all players put in a huge shift today both physically and mentally. Waltham were excellent going forward and to keep a clean sheet speaks volumes for the team and how they set up when not in possession. We could have been a little bit better with the final ball, but Harry was clinical, which was the difference between the two sides. This was again a great example of game intelligence and the level of performance got the result it deserved. Great work by all involved.”