After a positive week performance wise the Worthing College ECFA squad were looking to get points on the board against a very impressive Portsmouth College side.
The strength in depth of Worthing’s Programme was to be tested with 28 players available across two matches and many players with National League experience involved in FA Youth Cup action for their respective external sides. However the line up was still extremely strong with Scott Rafferty taking a more advanced role on the right hand side and Marshall Ball being handed a second start after a very impressive display against City College on the Friday.
The game took the predicted pattern that the coaching staff had described to the players before the game with Portsmouth playing many short passes in defensive areas with excellent movement in midfield and attack, however this was cancelled out to a certain extent by Worthing’s superb discipline in shape when not in possession. Worthing were diligent in this approach and looked to catch Portsmouth on the break at every opportunity. The pace of Nick Oxley was testing his opposite full back, however at times the final ball was just lacking.
Even with Worthing keeping a great defensive shape in midfield they were at times second best with Portsmouth rotation and movement causing problems without creating any clear cut chances. However when chances were created Worthing’s keeper Jimmy Punter was in excellent form with great handling throughout the first half.
Organisation at this level is key and set pieces are a major part of this. Worthing looked dangerous, especially from wide free kicks with both Josh Etherington and Sam Marsden squandering chances from quality delivery from Ball and Dave Beaney. As the half drew to a close Mark Goldson was beginning to cause problems with his direct running style, however chances were at a premium and the score was 0-0 at half time.
The focus at half time was to ensure that Worthing stepped up the tempo by doing their good work slightly higher up the pitch. The second half started with Worthing on the front foot. Marshall Ball stole the ball in midfield and played in Marsden, only for an outstanding last ditch tackle from the Portsmouth centre back. Another free flowing move involving Goldson, Scott Goodman and Rafferty, who crossed for Marsden, whose header hit the cross bar.
The game was halted however after a nasty clash of heads between Marsden and the Portsmouth centre back, with Marsden coming off second best. Play was stopped for 45 minutes, however player health was the priority and Marsden left the field of play in a neck brace on a stretcher. Marsden got a fantastic ovation from both sets of players and fans in the stand, showing the excellent nature this game had from both sides.
With this break it would be down to who could get their minds focused quicker to take the points, but credit to both sides the tempo of the game was extremely high and was a credit to this level of football. The last 30 minutes were extremely frantic with an end of end nature. Punter was again standing firm with some superb saves and handling. The defensive performance of Worthing was outstanding with Elliot Dollner, Jack Punter, Dave Beaney and Etherington putting in some excellent blocks and intelligence in positional terms.
At this level its all about fine lines and going into the last ten minutes this could again be the case. Worthing had defended set pieces superbly all game and again cleared to start another counter attack, however a wrong decision (passing centrally rather than wide) allowed Portsmouth to close down the ball, turn and play in their number 9, who finished expertly beyond Punter in the Worthing goal. 0-1. Celebrations were jubilant with Worthing deflated, but heads needed to be cleared and character shown.
Straight from centre Marshall Ball found Oxley, who beat his man and delivered a cross, which the Portsmouth goalkeeper fumbled and Eli Amoo was on hand to score his first goal at National League Level 1-1.
The final five minutes were again frantic, with Punter fortunate to see the ball go under his body, but he got enough of a deflection to turn it past the post, which prompted the referee to blow the full-time whistle, with both sides picking up a hard earned point.
Performance Coach Dave Hall was extremely pleased with the squads character “We saw another side to the squad today, which goes a long was to developing their game intelligence. The discipline without the ball today was outstanding and it was a real game for the defenders, who were the stars today. If we were better in possession we could have gained the three points, however the character and intelligence after going 1 down shows how much the squad have developed in such a short space of time. Each point at this National Level is hard earned and the boys will go again next week to continue their development.”
Onwards & Upwards,