Worthing Football Club joint manager Jon Meeney was bullish after his side ground out a 1-1 draw against higher level opponents Hemel Hempstead in the FA Trophy third qualifying round yesterday.
In truth, it wasn’t a match that will live long in the memory of the 504 who witnessed it. A tie between two sides in indifferent form didn’t promise to be a classic, and that promise was undoubtedly kept.
“I’m proud of my boys,” Meeney exclaimed after the game. “We deserved that penalty (scored by Lloyd Dawes in the 77th minute) and when you look at the game as a whole I thought we made the running, had good ball possession, and caused them endless problems when we executed what we’d planned.
"We should have come in ahead in the first half, we were on the front foot but failed to capitalise on that, and then they had a bit of luck and finished well. But collectively we showed good tactical play, good technical play, and good energy.”
The first half showed much endeavour but rather less quality, and only sparked into life in the five minutes before the interval. First an error from Sam Rents allowed Hemel’s Jordan Parkes to pounce on a bouncing ball and fire home from 18 yards.
Within 60 seconds Rents had the opportunity to make amends, ghosting in at the far post to meet a cross which Tudors keeper Jamie Butler did well to keep out.
Worthing then had perhaps their best chance, when a long clearance from Brannon O’Neill found Omar Bugiel and Aaron Hayden competing at the edge of the box, with Butler in no-man's land. Bugiel managed to flick the ball deftly towards goal, but Hayden was able to charge back and fling himself full length, hooking the ball off the line.
The second half was generally devoid of incident, with the home defence marshaling former Whitehawk striker Jake Robinson rather well and the efforts of Bugiel up front for Worthing meeting the brick wall which was the Tudors man-mountain centre-back Reiss Greenidge, until with 13 minutes remaining Hemel threw Worthing a lifeline.
James Kaloczi inexplicably clipped Corey Heath as the defender, up for a corner, was running away from goal, and Lloyd Dawes cooly slotted the penalty down the middle to draw his side level. There were then chances at either end, the best falling to Dawes, but none were taken, and the teams now need to do it all again at Vauxhall Road.
The last word went to Meeney. “We’ve got real confidence for the replay- we were on top and didn’t want the final whistle to go- and come Tuesday we plan to carry on where we left off.”
Worthing: Fagan, Hendon, Rents, Wills, Cook, Heath, Dawes, O’Neill (Edwards), Bugiel, Newton, Sparks. Subs:, Belward, Brodie, Boiling, Lemon.
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