Worthing fans are watching their team again - and couldn't be happier
Football. Fresh air. Fans. Last week, up and down the country, was what non-league supporters had been waiting for since mid-December, a return to the stands and terraces that was long overdue.
Most clubs had written off their seasons leaving their supporters to look forward to pre-season friendlies which will begin in around a month or so’s time.
The announcement by SCFL premier side East Preston that they were hosting a friendly against Isthmian premier outfit Worthing was always going to get me into the ground.
EP were a focus club for me last season when Terry Dodd became manager. They have had some changes since then and now chairman Terry Doyle has installed ex-Arundel boss Simon Hull as the new man in charge days after his release from the club up the river. So this was always going to be a bit of a scratch side for a one off as far as EP were concerned and with a side full of quality as the Rebels possess and some promising youngsters on the bench it was a good test for the home side.
It was no surprise to see Worthing dominate possession but it took an Ollie Pearce strike on 22 minutes to open the scoring.
Joel Colbran and Ricky Aguiar added further goals, the latter’s effort drilled from the edge of the box giving them a 3-0 half-time lead.
The fourth goal came from Shaq Gwengue after a fine move and a smart finish before Rebels manager Adam Hinshelwoodmade a raft of substitutions with most of the senior players making way.
An EP free kick clipped the top of the Worthing bar in their best effort.
Worthing added another three goals to make it 7-0 but it was a good workout for all.
Hinshelwood was very pleased to have supporters back, sayting: “It was great to play with fans in attendance again - it felt like a bit of normality for all of us.’
“It’s been way too long to have that feeling – a simple cheer after a goal goes in makes the game seem so much better and real.
“It’s been so important for us, I believe, to get together as a group for two reasons – first it would have been a long time if we had waited just for pre-season to get some match practice into the legs and I believe this would heighten the risk of injury.
“Second, for the players and everyone connected to have that engagement with the group again for mental health reasons and general well being it’s been massive for us all.
“I think fans can identify with the mental health part, so many people I’ve spoken to over the months are wanting a bit of normality, and seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd of 250 shows how much it was wanted.”
Hull said: “It was fantastic to see fans back in the ground’ – it gives everyone a lift and there was a great buzz around The Lashmar.
“It was an opportunity for us to have a look and learn about our youngsters. As yet we’ve been unable to have any training sessions with them but a great test against Adam’s quality outfit.’
“That’s it for us now this season although we’re planning pre-season training and it will start very early. There’s plenty to do but the boys are keen and the coaching staff are willing.”