Harty on Rebels’ cup exit and the future

DESPITE losing 6-1, Worthing Football Club’s Monday evening Sussex Senior Cup semi-final defeat against Peacehaven could yet prove to be an important moment in the club’s recent history.

Even before the game kicked off, just by getting to that stage of the competition for the first time since 1999 was an achievement in itself for Rebels.

Taking out the various personalities and a number of off-field issues the bottom line is, the Woodside Road outfit had been struggling with their style of play earlier in the season and, in my opinion, almost looking like a pub team.

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So for Adam Hinshelwood, Jon Meeney and Mick Fogden to have turned things round in such a short space of time is not only a testament to their ability but again highlights the overwhelming potential the club still has.

There is no way of dressing it up, the score line will, to the neutral observer, look like a rout, but speaking to the most diehard of Peacehaven supporters in the bar afterwards they freely admitted that the score flattered them.

As with all games, there were pivotal moments throughout the 90 minutes, that on another night might have gone the other way. Both sides hit the woodwork while the game was scoreless, and perhaps the most telling moment was, when having pulled it back to 3-1, George Hayward put a chance wide, which had it gone the other side of the post might have made the last half an hour very interesting.

Fans will recall the Rebels’ opening home league fixture this season, when Peacehaven won 4-0, a performance so bad that chairman Lee Noakes issued a public apology to the supporters.

On the positive front, if at the start of the season anyone had told me that six of the youth-team squad would feature in the 16 for a Senior Cup semi-final, and four – Chris Cook, Greg Gander, Harvey Sparks and Ben Pope – would actually play, I would have had them carted off.

Bear in mind also that two of the six, Ben Pope and Austin Symonds are still at school, so despite the cup exit and the score, the glass is still very much half full rather than half empty.

Perhaps the most surreal moment of the evening was in the bar afterwards and probably indicated that at knocking 50, how my life has gone full circle.

Twenty five years ago, I was the co-editor of one of the country’s top-selling football fanzines, Gulls Eye, questioning both Barry Lloyd’s management style at the Albion and the way the club was run by the then directors.

A quarter of a century on, Lloydie now gives me so much support and advice with the youth team, and it’s Lee Noakes, Julian Church and myself getting it in the ear from the supporters, or at least one of them.

Apparently, according to one fan – who clearly had enjoyed the bar facilities at Culver Road – we’re not Worthing people (Noaksie and I have lived here a total of 97 years between us), and have arrived at the club for ‘non-footballing’ reasons.

Confused? Same here, but needless to say the excellent Rebels support and the potential of both the management and the players at the club, clearly show that Worthing’s long-term trough will soon be turning into a peak again.