Worthing beat Maidstone United to reach National League play-off final

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Ollie Pearce scored twice as Worthing moved to within 90 minutes of a place in the top division of English non-league football.

Pearce – with his 41st goal of the season – put Worthing ahead from the spot midway through the first half after Brad Dolaghan was bundled over in the area as the Rebels took on Maidstone in the second National South play-off semi-final.

Maidstone equalised in the 40th minute and had much of the possession and chances in the second half. But in the 89th minute, Worthing broke up a Maidstone attack and Joe Felix played in Pearce, whose footwork beat a couple of defenders before he fired in at the keeper’s near post to spark delirium among the vast majority of the 2,858 crowd.

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Braintree – who won 3-2 at Chelmsford in Saturday’s first semi-final – will visit Woodside Road for a 3pm kick-off next Monday – May 6 – and a place in next season’s National League Premier awaits the winners.

Worthing FC faced Maidstone at Woodside Road | Picture: Mike GunnWorthing FC faced Maidstone at Woodside Road | Picture: Mike Gunn
Worthing FC faced Maidstone at Woodside Road | Picture: Mike Gunn

Here is Nick Whiteman’s report from the game…

Worthing snatched a late victory against Maidstone to secure their place in the Vanarama National League South promotion final.

The Rebels survived a few scares in the second half only to pounce two minutes from time through their star man Ollie Pearce, narrowly winning 2-1 at the Sussex Transport Community Stadium and setting up a final encounter with Braintree.

Pearce’s winner came after he opened the scoring in 24th minute with a penalty before Matt Bentley’s 40th minute leveller set up a nervy second half for the hosts in front of a record breaking 2858 in attendance.

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The Mackerel Men started the opening half hour the stronger of the two sides creating two chances for the talisman Pearce, the first an excellent instinctive overhead kick that was well saved by former Worthing keeper Lucas Covolan, who did great again to deny a point-blank effort in the 14th minute from Pearce.

The home side managed to get the goal their start deserved as Bradley Dologhan slipped in Pearce and as he was about to shoot, he was bought down by George Fowler who may have been lucky to avoid a red card. Pearce made no mistake with the penalty as he empathically smashed it into the net to get his 41st goal of the campaign.

If the home crowd thought it was going to be routine then they were sadly mistaken. Kane Willis gave the ball away in the 25th minute and the lively Muhammadu Faal forced the first of many saves from keeper Olivier Wright.

The Stones main threat was the long ball into the box which Worthing dealt with better than they have previously. Faal’s physicality was a constant danger, but the home team got plenty of numbers back regularly to deal with the knock downs.

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Bentley equalised four minutes before half time to flatten the mood for the remainder of the first half, bundling in from close range after a goal mouth scramble. Wright was forced into two great saves denying Faal’s header and then incredibly getting his hands to Matt Rush overhead kick. Unfortunately, with the latter he could only push it back into the danger zone and Bentley was able to squeeze it in.

The second half was mostly quiet until the 87th minute with both sides being limited to half chances until the nervy ground exploded into life with two incredible minutes. The Stones were on top and three minutes from the end Wright was forced into a save from Bentley with the ball ricocheting out to Lamar Reynolds who able to return to Matt Rush who managed to hit the bar from only a few yards out.

60 seconds later and Worthing were able to counter with the ever-present partnership of Joe Felix and Pearce. Felix finding his teammate with a great pass who did excellently to turn inside of Reiss Greenidge who then tucked the ball into the near corner of the Maidstone net sending the Rebels faithful into ecstasy.

Picture gallery follows.

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