WORTHING Football Club were knocked out of the Robert Dyas League Cup on Tuesday evening when they lost on penalties at home to Burgess Hill.
Rebels captain Steve Metcalf saw his decisive spot-kick saved by Hillians goalkeeper Josh James in the first-round match.
Brannon O’Neill had scored a brace for the hosts, but with the score level at 2-2 after 90 minutes the clash went straight to penalties.
Goalkeeper Jack Fagan saved from Burgess Hill substitute Josh Jones to give Worthing the upper hand in the shoot-out.
O’Neill, Lloyd Dawes and new signing Callum Overton were all on target from the spot, but Will Hendon’s weak effort was saved by James, before he denied Metcalf.
Both sides fielded changed line-ups following their respective league games on Saturday, with Worthing handing starts to Jack Barnes, Fagan and debutant Overton.
Burgess Hill took an early lead through Lee Harding’s header, but Rebels hit back midway through the first half.
Against the run of play, O’Neill caught James off his line with a spectacular and precise 30-yard lob.
Phil Johnson, Dan Pearse, and Cam Wiltshire all wasted good opportunities as Hillians failed to capitalise on their first-half dominance.
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The visitors finally went back ahead five minutes after the break when a corner caused havoc and Toby Pointing fired home from close range.
Rebels improved as the game went on, with Barnes, Overton, Dawes and Matt Piper all going close before O’Neill’s second equaliser.
With 12 minutes to go, the Worthing midfielder won possession deep in the Burgess Hill half and drove forward before shooting low into the bottom corner.
Neither side were able to push for a winner with the threat of penalties looming, but it was Rebels who suffered shoot-out agony.
Worthing joint manager Jon Meeney was disappointed by the result, but felt that his side could draw many positives from their performance against higher-division opposition.
Meeney said: “I’m always bothered because I don’t like losing games of football. I wanted to win tonight because I think that breeds confidence.
“It’s disappointing to lose but I’m starting to see us winning within our performances and I think the results will come.
“Yes, we haven’t got the result again tonight, but it’s all about who holds their nerve and unfortunately tonight we didn’t do that in the penalty shoot-out.”
WORTHING: Fagan; Piper, Hurley, Metcalf, Sparks; Morey, Hendon, O’Neill, Barnes, Overton; Pope. Subs: Dawes (Pope 51), Waller (Morey 70), Axell (Barnes 74), Banks, Heath.
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