Rustington hold off Town fightback

Bank Holiday Monday meant a choice of games to go and watch, do I head to The Hive for game I didn’t expect Barnet to win and with a hefty admission fee or watch a double header of games locally instead? As it was Barnet decided not to put tickets for online sale available until Thursday last week, too late for me so decided on the double header.

The first took me to Worthing Town at Step 7, not to be confused with the Step 3 Worthing nor the Step 6 Worthing Utd! Town were hosting Rustington having lost their opening three games whilst the visitors had won their opening two matches.

Rustington are managed by someone I know very well, Jon Tucker, and two of his backroom team in Scott Farrell and Ash Finch are also well known to me. His squad also contains a few players I’ve come across over the years in Kieron Howard, Dan Swain, Dan Cox, Matt Noble and Josh Irish, all featuring bar Howard out with a back injury.

On paper this was down as an away win and a comfortable one at that, those mentioned above have mostly played Step 5 and 6 throughout their careers but as we are well aware it’s played on grass and not paper meaning it’s not always as clear cut as should be.

Both sides were keen to play with the ball on the floor with the odd one played into the channel for willing runners, Town to their credit played out from the back nicely but fell down in the final third, whilst the visitors did the same with more success but struggled to hit the target.

Rustington eventually took the lead on 22 minutes, a well worked free kick slid in Swain and he marked his debut with the opening goal. Beyond that Rustington appeared to be trying too hard to score and overplaying in areas when taking a chance to hit the target was more often than not the better option, Chris Darwin though did smash the ball against the crossbar just four minutes later.

The Town keeper was doing his bit to prevent the visitors from adding to the scoreline and with his defence clearing a couple of efforts off the line, at the other end Billy Nash saved well with his legs just after the half hour mark to ensure Rustington went in at half time a single goal in front and with Tucker no doubt telling his players to keep it simple but be effective.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with the ball mostly on the deck, the visitors extended their lead just before the hour, James Butt with an easy tap in to extend the lead.

From that point with Town still unable to create very much up front, there was an expectation for Rustington to go on and run up a decent score, but having begun to sit back a little, it invited Town on to push forward and make a real fist of it.

Seven minutes after the visitors went 2-0 up, the home side pulled one back, no scorer name available that I could find before publishing. They then hit the bar just a minute later as Rustington appeared rocked and in danger of throwing away the three points.

Both sides traded chances and you felt another goal for Rustington would seal the win, Krzysztof Paraficz with a free header in stoppage time provided just that and the final whistle blown immediately after the referee has consulted with the club linesman over a possible offside.

Good little crowd of around 60-70 watching on and Tucker will be pleased they got the job done, with Swain and Noble just controlling that midfield was hard for Town to get through and trouble Nash too many times. Impressed with Finn Aldridge who I believe was starting his first game, the youngster tiring in the second half but one not afraid to run at his man.

Speaking to Tucker after the game, he felt they worked hard but it could have been easier:

‘I think you’re right with the overplaying in the first half, we did make it more difficult for ourselves. Two games in three days meant a few tired legs and with a couple of injuries as well I’m pleased to get the three points and we move onto Saturday.’

One game down and next up the South Coast El Classicoast, Worthing vs Bognor to come in blog number two.

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