WORTHING Football Club extended their unbeaten home league run to seven games on Monday with a thrilling 2-2 draw against local rivals Bognor Regis in front of their best crowd since January, 2007.
There were 676 fans who saw Rebels lead the Ryman League Division 1 South clash twice but they had to settle for just a point after Rocks levelled with six minutes left to extend their unbeaten run against Worthing to 12 matches.
It was the first league meeting between the sides since 2003 and Bognor should have been ahead after just 39 seconds. Rebels’ Zac Beda’s sloppy back pass put Luke Nightingale clean through but he slotted wide with just Tony Di Bernardo to beat. Rocks’ Dan Beck then fired wide from the edge of the area on three minutes but Rebels grew into the game as the half wore on.
Tom Manton flashed a 25-yarder a couple of yards wide before Worthing took the lead on 28 minutes. Bognor’s Kane Wills handled 22 yards from goal when Callum Saunders tried to flick the ball past him and John Lansdale beatifully curled the ball home, low into the far corner for his second goal of the season.
That was the way things stayed until half-time, when Bognor made a double substitution and came out fired up for the second period. It took them just three minutes to level when James Crane crossed from the right and Nightingale, unmarked, nodded past Di Bernardo.
In a real end-to-end second half, the sides traded chances. Terry Dodd should have regained Rebels’ lead on 55 minutes but lacked composure and fired wide when through one-on-one and Tom Lawley then had a snap-shot turned behind for a corner by Bognor keeper Craig Stoner.
After Bognor’s Jason Prior had a 20-yarder saved by Di Bernardo, Rebels went ahead on 64 minutes. Saunders’ 35-yarder was parried by Stoner but Saunders raced in to tap home from the tightest of angles for his ninth goal of the season.
Bognor then pushed for an equaliser and should have got it on 70 minutes when Nightingale, again unmarked, headed over from just five yards.
He then fired wide after a smart turn before Rocks did level on 84 minutes when ex-Rebel Ben Johnson crossed from the left and Prior headed home.
Within a minute of the restart, Rebels had a penalty appeal turned down when Dodd’s shot was blocked by James Fraser as both sides had to settle for a point and the return game at Nyewood Lane on April 25 will be one to look forward to.
Worthing boss Chris White said: “It’s always disappointing to lose a lead twice but I think it’s a point gained. It was a good game of football and a fair result.
“I said to the boys afterwards that they’ve played some great football here this season but today they showed character. If we can do that on the road and pick up a few more points, we’ve got a real chance of the play-offs.”
Rebels were due to have striker Chamal Fenelon in their squad for the game but White said: “I had a phone call from Jason Hopkinson, the Hastings manager, who said he is going to sign for them.
“Cham’s not phoned me and he won’t be going anywhere until he does. Maybe this is why he has had 3,500 clubs.
“We were also without Luke Gedling (ill) and Jamie Groves (ill; work commitments) today and they’re the type of players I’m interested in – players who want to be here, not big-time charlies.”
Rebels are at White’s former club, Horsham YMCA, on Monday (3pm) and he said: “They’ve got a new manager and that can sometimes get a reaction.
“Half of our squad are going back to their former club and we need to show character.
“I always like to go back to my old clubs but I’m not sure how I’ll be greeted, although I’ve got broad shoulders.”
Worthing have made an approach for Whitehawk midfielder Scott Kirkwood, who was at Rebels two seasons ago.
WORTHING: Di Bernardo; R.Timms, Beda, T.Timms, Metcalf; Saunders, Huckett, Manton, Lansdale, Manton; Dodd. Subs: Pulling, D.White. Townsend, Charles, Peake. Att: 676.