It was a Tuesday night before lockdown and a mad rush to get in as many football matches as possible before battening down the hatches for the second time this year.
Although to be fair, Three Bridges vs Worthing in the Sussex Senior Cup was always going to be my destination far before the realms of unpredictability rolled the dice once again, a second viewing of Bridges and a third of the Mackerel Men.
Having caught my first 0-0 of the season the previous evening in the same competition I was hopeful that was just a blip and more goals would be on offer, well that 0-0 had to have a penalty shoot-out, so not counted really is it!
One huge bonus for the visitors was the return of Alfie Young to the heart of the defence, a big player for Worthing and one needed since Aarran Racine decided to step away to concentrate on his business.
Having seen both sides in action at least once already this season, there was less of an unknown quantity about either side. As you would expect the Mackerel Men had most of the possession but Bridges were content to make the most of the play when they had the ball.
The first real chance of the game came on 16 minutes, Worthing Mo Diallo was denied by Bridges stopper Kieron Thorp after fashioning a chance himself. Bridges though came back and ex-Mackerel man Brannon O’Neil brought a fine save out of Roco Rees in the Worthing goal.
With Worthing enjoying their better spells down the flanks, the next good chance came from Dajon Golding cutting in from the right wing but blazing wildly over when looking set to open the scoring.
The game should have turned on its head in the 42nd minute, a lunging challenge from Bridges centre half Dean Lovegrove on Jasper Pattenden saw the defender receive his second red card in as many matches and leave his side with just over half a game to complete with ten men.
Worthing certainly had a little more intensity in the second half, trying to pull Bridges across the pitch and make the most of the extra man advantage but the hosts made the visitors work hard defending well against Diallo and Omar Koroma, not allowing either striker much sight of Thorp’s goal.
Koroma did get a sight of goal just before the hour mark, bursting through the Bridges defence beating Thorp but hitting the defender on the line which kept the scores level.
The hosts were increasingly creating chances on the counter-attack as Worthing pushed forward trying to break the deadlock and indeed were nearly caught out as Gayler sent the ball over Rees goal when well positioned.
The Mackerel Men made them pay for that miss as substitute Ollie Pearce was slipped in and fired emphatically past Thorp to give Worthing the lead on 82 minutes.
The lead was to last no more than a minute as Bridges replied immediately through John Lansdale. Skipping through the Worthing defence, the ball found it’s way through to Lansdale hammered the ball past Rees to give Bridges renewed hope and a way back into the tie.
Worse was to come for Worthing as minutes later Curtis Gayler finished off a fine counter-attack with a measured finish past Rees to give the home side the lead and under three minutes left to play.
Koroma thought he had levelled the scores in the last minute, a Golding cross picking him out in the six yard box but the tall striker’s header hit the bar and the loose ball cleared away to safety.
Bridges held firm in stoppage time despite a barrage of balls into the box and secured their place in the last sixteen of the cup at the expense of their higher league placed opponents.
After the game I caught up with Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood to get his views on the game:
‘Bit frustrated we didn’t take our chances, but we should have had a penalty in the first ten minutes instead of an offside decision going against us which changes the game in my opinion, but on the night we didn’t show enough quality in the final third and they fully deserved to win.’
‘We made a lot of poor choices on the ball and clinical ruthless finishing was lacking for me, we would turn down a simple pass for a more difficult one. It’s football though, it happens and we’ve already identified improvements to be made and the players like myself will be working hard to improve.’
‘Great to have Alfie (Young) back, a real big player for us and the way we want to play, but for the two goals last night I have already had a conversation with him on how he could’ve done better in both situations and potentially prevented them which he agreed with, so he will learn from it and that’s what this group of players do, they are honest, hard working and Alfie epitomises that, he is very brave to get on the ball and play it out from the back.’
‘With the lockdown coming in, its very frustrating but it is what it is we have to deal with it and then try and find the momentum we were building in the league on the return. Hopefully, a shining light will be that the pitch can be done in this time.’
‘We’ll try and do some Zoom sessions with the boys over the next four weeks and keep in touch with them as much as we are allowed to do, obviously no training for the same period of time I hope has no or little effect when we do re-start.’