WORTHING Football Club were unable to make it a hat-trick of home wins when they suffered a late 1-0 defeat at home to Merstham on Saturday.
Rebels welcomed back striker Terry Dodd to Woodside Road – after he had re-joined the club from Lewes on Thursday evening – and he slotted straight into the starting line-up as he partnered Trevor McCreadie, who returned from suspension, up front.
Worthing could have comfortably been in the lead at half-time but failed to take the chances that came their way.
Omar Bugiel had Rebels’ first chance in the sixth minute when the ball fell to him in the six-yard box but his shot was saved by Merstham keeper Brannon Daly at the expense of a corner.
From the resulting flag-kick, McCreadie shot narrowly wide.
At the other end, Worthing stopper Jack Fagan had to gather dangerous looking crosses from the impressive Merstham skipper Fabio Saraiva and Peter Adeniyi.
In the 16th minute, good play between Dodd and Harvey Sparks led to Bugiel shooting from 15 yards but his goalbound shot hit Dodd in an offside position.
Saraiva and Dodd both fired wide from just outside the box at either end, before Fagan comfortably saved Saraiva’s 30-yard free kick.
A deep Brannon O’Neill free kick fell to Dodd and then skipper Matt Hurley but both saw shots blocked as Merstham defended well and when the ball broke to Bugiel he scooped a shot over the bar.
In the second half, Dodd smartly flicked the ball up and volleyed towards goal early in the second half but Daly comfortably saved.
Merstham wingers Taurean Roberts and Stefan Cox both caused problems and it was from a Cox ball into the channel that Tommy Hutchings forced a smart save from Fagan.
Rebels were then let off when Mark Okoye missed with a free header from a free kick.
Bugiel shot wide following a good run at the other end and Sparks then fired wide after McCreadie slid him in.
Fagan bravely denied Roberts, before Rebels went close to an opener when O’Neill’s free kick was touched on by McCreadie and came back off a post into Daly’s arms.
Merstham took the lead with just five minutes left when a corner was only part-cleared by Fagan’s punch and fell to Tutu Henriques, who scissor-kicked the ball home.
Dodd headed over from a Curtis Gayler cross but Rebels were unable to find an equaliser.
Rebels coach Jon Meeney said: “We created many openings in the final third, especially in the first half, and we should have been coming into half-time with the lead.
“Goals don’t just change the scoreline, they change the feel and mentality of a game, as well as the approach of both teams.
“It was frustrating, as we didn’t take our chances and it came back to bite us.”
On Dodd’s return, Meeney said: “Terry started and played the full 90 minutes, which will benefit him.
“He showed positive passages of play and definitely showed ingredients that he will fit into the squad and will bring many attributes to the table.”
WORTHING: Fagan; Hendon, Nicholls, Berry, Hurley, Sparks; Hayward, Bugiel, O’Neill; McCreadie, Dodd. Subs: Gayler (O’Neill), Axell (Hurley), Pope, Heath, Peake.