The new Worthing College Men’s Football Academy season started with the toughest test. FAB Academy are arguably the best side at this level in England, so it was an excellent test to see where the squad were in terms of their development.
Coach Dave Hall handed out seven debuts in the starting XI with first years Luke Ramsay, Fintan Walsh, Lewis Broughton, Matt Boiling, Charlie Williamson, Jamie Franking joining third year Lucas Rodrigues in making their first National League starts.
From the off FAB were showing their quality and looking to take the game to Worthing with their high tempo and excellent movement. Worthing looked a little hesitant and were potentially giving their opponents too much respect.
It wasn’t long before FAB took the lead from a set piece. The FAB centre back was given the freedom of Woodside Road to head the ball past Ramsay in the Worthing goal. 1-0.
This seemed to be a trigger for Worthing to wake up and begin to realise that they can more than compete with their illustrious opponents. A slight change in tactics saw Worthing look to break up play in the centre of the park and utilize the space in behind FAB’s attacking full backs. This was seeming to work, however crosses from Thurgar and Rodrigues were just overhit or the wrong side of the onrushing Harry Russell. Worthing’s shape was ever improving with Marshall Ball being ably supported by Williamson and Frankling in the centre of the park to ensure that Worthing were getting to grips with the challenge in front of them.
Russell and Thurgar both had clear cut chances to get Worthing back on level terms, however neither troubled the FAB keeper. Up the other end captain Elliot Dollner and in particular Matt Boiling were being exceptional in their shape and dispossessing the dangerous FAB attackers. The very talented FAB wingers were being marshalled well by full backs Walsh and Broughton, which was breathing confidence throughout the squad. Ramsay made a couple of decent stops to ensure that half time came with FAB 1-0 to the good.
The focus at half time was for the players to believe in themselves as a unit and to take the game to the visitors in the second half. This was taken on board as Worthing turned FAB around right from the kick off, which led to an excellent volley from Frankling just fizzing over the bar.
The shape of the front three defensively was superb and beginning to cause errors in the FAB backline. Russell was beginning to get into the game and was involved in one of the controversial points of the game, when seemingly through on goal he was pulled back with a yellow card to the FAB number 5 being the final decision. From the free kick Rodrigues opted to cross to Dollner, whose header went over the bar.
FAB were still extremely dangerous on the counter and Ramsay had to strongly parry away a cross from the impressive FAB number 11.
Each to a man Worthing had run themselves into the ground and therefore needed a fresh impetus. Changes were made with Williamson making way for another debutant Jack Newhouse, which allowed Rodrigues to be more central.
Newhouse made an instant impact with his direct style and energy, which again gave the whole team a lift. Fintan Walsh thought he had equalized but his strike from a Ball corner was very well saved.
The equalizer was definitely coming, but Worthing needed to believe and kick on once again. Harry Russell made way for Luke Brodie and Frankling departed for Curtis Griffin taking the debuts up to a round ten.
As Worthing were pressing there was a real set back, which was potentially harsh on them. Walsh looked to challenge the dangerous FAB number 7, however his tackle was deemed reckless from the official, so the red card was shown.
Worthing players rallied and moved themselves into a 4-4-1 formation with Brodie playing high, which paid off straight away. Dollner played a long ball in behind the full back and centre half. Brodie used his body superbly, which forced a foul on Brodie and a penalty was awarded.
Rodrigues stepped up, but his first kick was saved. However the linesman said the goalkeeper had encroached. So with that Rodrigues stepped up a second time and slammed the ball into the top corner. 1-1.
It was now deep into injury time and potentially a draw would be a fair result. But FAB drove straight down the other end to force a corner and the resultant set piece was forced home. 2-1 FAB.
Worthing didn’t have time to kick off and with that their first game of the National season finished in defeat.
Head Coach Dave Hall was reflective in the sides performance “I can’t fault the players for their application and work rate against one of the best sides in England at this level. This is a great stage for the players to test themselves and I hope after this they will fully believe that they can compete and develop at this level. It was excellent to see ten players make their debuts and it bodes well for their future. The game is a learning curve and the players will need to take from this that you are at your most vulnerable when you have just scored or on the attack. I’m really looking forward to working with the whole group this season.”