Shot-shy Worthing FC fluff their lines on the FA Cup stage

Action in the Alfreton-Worthing tie | Picture: Mike GunnAction in the Alfreton-Worthing tie | Picture: Mike Gunn
Action in the Alfreton-Worthing tie | Picture: Mike Gunn
They’re arguably one of Sussex non-league football’s perennial 21st century FA Cup underachievers – and Worthing Football Club failed again on Saturday, when, having reached the first round proper for the first time since 1999, went out without much of a fight at Alfreton.

With £41,000 prize money up for grabs and the chance to reach the second round for only the second time in the club’s 137-year history, Adam Hinshelwood’s team gave themselves the optimum preparation when they travelled up to Derbyshire on Friday afternoon a day ahead of facing their National League North counterparts.

The hosts, having only lost once in the last 11 games, started as slight favourites, Worthing having suffered a setback earlier in the week when experienced defender, Glen Rea, recently released by Premier League club Luton Town, was ruled out for six weeks after breaking his toe whilst helping his friend move house in Brighton.

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Adam Hinshelwood and his players applaud the Worthing fans after losing at Alfreton | Picture: Mike GunnAdam Hinshelwood and his players applaud the Worthing fans after losing at Alfreton | Picture: Mike Gunn
Adam Hinshelwood and his players applaud the Worthing fans after losing at Alfreton | Picture: Mike Gunn

But the exchanges were even in the first 45 minutes and the Rebels’ best opportunities were two half-chances from Ricky Aguiar in the first 15 minutes.

Played in light but persistent rain, the first half was heading for an almost predictable stalemate before Alfreton’s Nathan Newall produced the first real piece of quality, a shot from the edge of the box which Worthing keeper Roco Rees was equal to, with a fine save in first-half injury time.

On 47 minutes experienced Worthing striker Jake Robinson could and should have opened the scoring after a cross from the right from Joe Felix but his shot was mistimed and went straight into the arms of Alfreton keeper George Willis.

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For the next half hour or so neither team really threatened anything, and as the clock ticked past the 70-minute mark, a replay Tuesday week at Woodside Road looked the most likely outcome.

But after his near miss at the end of the first half, Newall upped the ante on 73 minutes, and no keeper in the country would have stopped his screamer from outside the box that flew into the top corner.

As Worthing pushed for the all-important equaliser, albeit without creating any real scoring opportunity, the hosts effectively ended the contest on 85 minutes when lofty centre back Kennedy Digie scored with a close-range bullet header from a corner.

Worthing, cheered on by an impressive 250-strong away support, who sang from first whistle to last, huffed and puffed but even given five minutes of added time still couldn’t create any kind of meaningful chance.

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Boss Adam Hinshelwood was blunt in his appraisal post match: “We’re obviously disappointed, I feel like they’ve done a bit of a job on us really. We had a lot of possession but when we got the ball into good areas of the pitch, there wasn’t enough quality coming in.

"I don’t think we worked their goalkeeper enough. For all the possession you have, it’s pointless if you don’t create chances and challenge the keeper.

"That said, full credit to Alfreton. They’re a tough team to play against, really strong, very similar to Yeovil the other week.

"We’ve just got to find a way to create chances from possession because we keep coming up short against these good teams.”

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Worthing get a chance to put their exit behind them and get more league points on the board – and reward Saturdsay’s vociferous travelling support – with the visit to Woodside Road of bottom club Havant and Waterlooville, this Tuesday (7.45pm).