One fan’s view on highs and lows of Worthing’s amazing National South season

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Well, where to begin? It became a regular saying in The Rebel Yell podcast ... what a roller-coaster of a season Worthing FC have had!

From numerous ins and outs to a new manager, we have had it all.

Feelings were positive as we embarked on our second season in the National League South with manager Adam Hinshelwood wanting to go one better than 22/23 with a 3rd place or higher finish.

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Some fantastic signings, notably Joe Felix and Nicky Wheeler, were wearing a newly sponsored brand new Worthing kit and started out strong with only 1 loss in August. A memorable 3-0 victory away to relegated and fan-titled ‘HMS smash the league’ Torquay United was a key highlight of that month, let alone the season!

James Easton - with pint in hand - at the play-off final... when dreams were eventually dashed | Picture: Benjamin ThomasJames Easton - with pint in hand - at the play-off final... when dreams were eventually dashed | Picture: Benjamin Thomas
James Easton - with pint in hand - at the play-off final... when dreams were eventually dashed | Picture: Benjamin Thomas

Four was a key theme throughout the season – and one of the only frustrations of 23/24. Starting with eventual promotion final winners Braintree Town, Worthing had four goals shipped past them on no less than four occasions away from home often where the journey home for Rebel fans was not the easiest. The only team Worthing didn’t get revenge for in the reverse home fixture was, you guessed it, Braintree Town.

A much-wanted cup run was wanted by Hinshelwood, as he said on The Rebel Yell podcast, and this season he got one. On Saturday 4th November, two coachloads of Worthing FC fans travelled on transport offered by WFCSA Travel (a branch of the Worthing FC Supporters’ Association) to see the Rebels take on in form Alfreton Town of the National League North in the FA Cup first round – playing at that stage for the first time since 1999.

The atmosphere took the small Derbyshire town by surprise as the coaches emptied in to a small local pub which was hugely understaffed but at the same time hugely grateful for the unexpected income on a Saturday with a big away following. Unfortunately unlike the fans, the team didn’t turn up on this day and exited the FA Cup in underwhelming fashion. Just like the FA Cup, Worthing also exited The FA Trophy a couple weeks later in the hands of step four Frome Town after a penalty shootout.

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Despite the disappointment of the cup exits, spirits were still high as Worthing were doing well in the league, staying up the top end for most of the season. A new year and the wins kept coming, starting with a convincing 4-0 victory over Sussex rivals Eastbourne Borough, and the Rebels took 22 points out of a possible 27 putting themselves in 2nd place mid February.

Ollie Pearce's 43 goals gave Worthing fans plenty of high points - here he is after scoring the play-off semi-final winner v Maidstone | Picture: Mike GunnOllie Pearce's 43 goals gave Worthing fans plenty of high points - here he is after scoring the play-off semi-final winner v Maidstone | Picture: Mike Gunn
Ollie Pearce's 43 goals gave Worthing fans plenty of high points - here he is after scoring the play-off semi-final winner v Maidstone | Picture: Mike Gunn

February was busy for us at Rebel Yell & the Worthing FC Supporters’ Association, as we launched a charity football shirt created by local artists Two Faced Twins. This shirt is supporting an incredible local charity - Worthing Food Foundation - with a percentage of each shirt going to them.

A photoshoot and teaser video made with the help of club media staff Jack Williams, Miles Holter and Mike Gunn, featuring Danny Cashman from the men’s team and Danielle Rowe from the women’s team, helped create a buzz on social media and high sales at the launch event during the Dover Athletic game.

Limited shirts are still available for purchase for £35 (visit A special podcast was recorded with the Two Faced Twins to discuss the project and we also managed to have what we thought was a farewell interview with Aarran Racine, who had recently announced his retirement through unfortunate injury.

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The biggest shock of the season was just around the corner. After a disappointing home loss to Braintree Town (them again!) everything seemed normal. After-match drinks were had at the various local drinking holes, goodbyes were said and Rebels retired to their homes without a clue on the world of what was about to happen.

After that Saturday matchday, relegation threatened York City of the National League sacked their manager Neal Ardley. Nothing to note here, we all thought. Well, that was until rumours started swirling and a certain Mr Hinshelwood started appearing at the top of bookmakers’ ‘Next York Manager’ odds sheets. Surely this couldn’t have been true?

Why would Adam Hinshelwood leave Worthing when they are on the brink of another finish in the play-offs with possible promotion to the National League? Why would Adam Hinshelwood go to a club that is threatened with relegation and have had numerous managers in the last couple of years? How did Adam Hinshelwood have the capability and time to implement his style of play and tactics into a squad that wasn’t his to save them from relegation? Why would Adam Hinshelwood uproot his family from Worthing where they all seemed settled?

Adam Hinshelwood answered fans’ questions by leaving Worthing FC for National League York City on 27th February, taking assistant manager Gary Elphick and coach Cameron Morrison with him.

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We were in shock! We knew this day would come but not at this point in the season. Unanswered questions, pure emotion and a bit of frustration were all Rebels fans were talking about. Our beloved Hinsh had gone. Arguably the best manager Worthing FC have had and may ever have. But that is football and football moves quickly. Hinsh ended up saving York City from relegation.

The club were quick to install an interim management team with recently retired former captain Racine returning to the club as interim manager. The irony of this, when interviewing him in the February edition of The Rebel Yell podcast, was the question we asked if we could see him ever stepping in to the shoes of Hinsh and managing the club. I don’t think anyone expected it this soon.

He brought with him former Premier League footballer and current youth coach Dean Hammond as well as former club legend Darren Budd, who had left playing at Burgess Hill the previous week.

The fans were satisfied that these were the chaps who could cement our place in the play-offs and no-one could have asked for a better start than a hard-fought 1-0 victory away at promotion rivals Chelmsford City through the wonder-strike of AFC Bournemouth loanee Jack Wadham. Trust me, you’ll never see a better goal and to be there to witness it in person made the moment even sweeter.

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Unfortunately this would be the only highlight we would see for a while. In fact until the TNT cameras came rolling in to town for the visit of Bath City. Three losses in a row were not looking good for our play-off hopes with other teams around us picking up points. But that TNT Sports game was a turning point.

Little old Worthing on TV - wow! It was a surreal moment to see numerous cameras and a presenting team on the pitch at Woodside. Even more so when I went into the bar just before kick-off to get my pint and seeing Woodside Road on TV in all its glory. A very good advertisement for non-league football followed with a 2-2 draw but it didn’t do too much for our play-off hopes.

But 18 points out of an available 18 taken in our remaining regular season games ended with Worthing progressing directly to a home semi-final with Maidstone, who overcame Aveley in the eliminators. A special mention to Worthing for spoiling Yeovil’s promotion party away at Huish Park with a 3-1 victory against all odds.

The day had come, a semi-final against Maidstone with a home final on the line. Worthing took a first half lead with a converted penalty by none other than Ollie Pearce but sloppy defending and a stroke of luck enabled Maidstone to equalise before the break. They say you cannot enjoy playoff football with so much on the line and I can wholeheartedly agree with this.

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Maidstone had the majority of possession in the second half with the ball mostly being pinged around Worthing’s half. They hit the cross bar and ultimately a clearance found Joe Felix who then played through Ollie Pearce. With the ball behind him and two defenders on him, he somehow managed to put it past former Rebel Lucas Covolan in the Maidstone goal, sending Woodside into raptures and Worthing into the National League South Promotion Final the following bank holiday Monday.

A week of nerves followed and then the day had arrived. What should have been a lovely sunny Bank Holiday Monday arrived with pouring rain on the South Coast but that wouldn’t dampen spirits.

Breakfast was had, beverages consumed and an early entry to Woodside Road to ensure prime viewing point in the most important game in Worthing history. Last time the cameras of TNT Sports were at Woodside Road we’d witnessed a classic and this game was to be no different. An early goal by Braintree was cancelled out before half time by Pearce with Jack Spong giving the Rebels a lead not long after half time. Woodside had started dreaming.

Ten minutes of madness followed as Braintree equalised then moments later took the lead with an absolute worldie of a strike. Dreams were shattered until Danny Cashman equalised yet again for Worthing. A tense final 20 minutes of regular time with nothing to separate the sides meant extra time.

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Hearts seemed to be set on a penalty shootout to decide this final until seven minutes from time, Rebel hearts were well and truly broken when Braintree scored the goal that would take them to the National League. Not even a Greg Leur header could save us – their goalkeeper was now on fire.

It was over. Worthing would play a third year in the National League South. But I can be immensely proud of where this club has come from. After moving to the area in the last decade and seeing the club move from Isthmian mid table to Champions and to two years in the National League South play-offs how can I be anything but?

Seeing local businesses and pubs support the town’s club for the final was immense. New fans would have been lured in to supporting this wonderful club and I hope we continue to see them next season.

So many memories were made this season and I’m sure I speak on behalf of so many Worthing supporters when I say how proud I am of another amazing season in this tough league and what the lads have achieved.

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Yes changes will happen. We now have a new manager, Chris Agutter. Beloved players will leave but new Worthing FC heroes will arrive and cement their place in this team. New memories will be made.

Hinsh wanted us to go one better this season and we did – 3rd place and a play-off final. Can we go one better next season? 2nd and a play-off final win? Automatic promotion?

One thing we can be certain for is that Worthing FC will never cease to entertain us and produce what will almost probably be another of those ‘roller-coaster seasons’.

Listen to The Rebel Yell Podcast with James, Spencer and Jacco on all major platforms. Tune in to live matchday commentary with Pete at and join the Worthing FC Supporters Association this summer for £10 - keep an eye on our socials @WorthingFCSA and @RebelYellWFCSA

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