A LAST-gasp Mark Knee penalty earnt Worthing Football Club all three points in a 3-2 victory over Hythe Town this afternoon.
Knee netted from the spot in a dramatic finale with 91 minutes on the clock after a handball in the area in the Ryman South Division clash.
The result saw Rebels seal their seventh consecutive home win, although they did it the hardway after throwing away a 2-0 half-time lead.
Knee returned from suspension for Rebels and slotted in at left-back in the only change to the side that lost 2-1 at Whitstable last week.
Lloyd Dawes made the bench after re-signing at Woodside Road on Friday on duel registrations with Whitehawk after a spell at Peacehaven, while long-term absentee Matt Piper was also named amongst the substitutes.
Luke Gedling’s flicked header from a lofted Mark Pulling free kick tested Hythe goalkeeper Dan Eason’s gloves early on, but caused little trouble for the visiting stopper. At the other end, with four minutes on the clock, Simon Lehkyj got down well to parry Shaun Welford’s effort away from the danger area.
Rebels had the crossbar to thank on eight minutes as Welford rose highest to cannon a teasing Taser Hassan cross from the right onto the bar from close range.
The hosts got a foothold in the game after that and a good period of sustained pressure, Chris O’Flaherty produced a smart turn and shot which was well saved by Eason.
The pressure soon paid off as Rebels took the lead on 18 minutes. Mark Knee’s looping effort from a corner was headed off the line, but only as far as central defender Will Berry, who smashed home from 12 yards.
Lehkyj made a cracking point-blank save to deny Hythe an equaliser on 30 minutes as the Worthing stopper produced a moment of magic to block away Ashley Miller’s effort.
Welford unleashed a pile driver of a free kick moments later which rocketed past the right-hand post from a good 30 yards.
O’Flaherty then netted his eighth goal of the season to double Rebels’ lead on 38 minutes in stunning fashion. The forward man picked up the ball 27 yards out and magnificently curled home into the top right corner with Eason off his line.
O’Flaherty almost had a superb second soon after as Eason tipped his 30-yard free kick onto the bar, while Dan Turner went close with a curled effort shortly before half-time.
The second half started at a fierce pace and O’Flaherty was first to test Eason with a curling free kick.
The visitors pulled a goal back on 58 minutes with some cracking build-up play which carved the Rebels defence open. Some quick one-touch football eventually saw a back-heel put Welford in and he finished into the bottom corner with aplomb.
Hythe levelled just six minutes later as Lee Winfield headed home from a corner after Lehkyj had made a decent stop to deny Miller’s angled effort.
Winfield almost netted another with seven minutes left as the ball dropped kindly for him after another corner and his effort struck the left-hand post. Lehkyj then saved well from Welford in the dying moments after he barged past Malachi Robinson and cut in.
But Worthing were to have the last say as Ryan Cooper handled in the penalty area in injury-time and Knee made no mistake from the spot to earn the hosts all three points.
Hythe players and officials fumed at the full-time whistle venting at the match referee and debating the decision, while Rebels celebrated extending their unbeaten home run to nine games.
WORTHING: Lehkyj; Williams, O’Neill, Berry, Knee; Turner, Gedling, Hayward, Pulling; O’Flaherty; Pamment. Subs: Dawes (Pulling 65), Robinson (Williams 77, Daniel (Pamment 87), Peake, Piper.
HYTHE: Eason; Cooper, Osborne, Kingwell, Walker, Winfield, Collado, Burchell, Welford, Miller, Hassan. Subs: Webb, Blackman, Cook, O’Hara. Attd: 268.