Rebels record another fine pre-season win

Pre-season was wrapped up for me on Tuesday evening as Worthing took on Welling Utd. Despite the fact both these clubs still have three more Saturdays until they kick off, Steps 5 and 6 at County League level begin this coming weekend, 31st July, and attention now turns to competitive action.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Worthing in pre-season action, not by design, more by the opposition and the first return to Woodside Road for any fans since March last year included in that.

Welling Utd were one of the sides my late father used to take me to see fairly regularly as I was growing up along with the likes of Dartford, Maidstone Utd, Gravesend and Tonbridge, so quite a nostalgic return to the past following Tonbridge gracing Woodside Road at the weekend. Watching the likes of Gary Abbott, Terry Robbins, Lee Harrison, Steve Barnes and Steve Finnan to name a few, Google the scoring records of those first two.

In two National League outfits, a good test for Adam Hinshelwood’s men as they gear up for a new season, already in explosive form across this pre-season raining goals.

And again, the Rebels were quick off the mark as has been a feature of their play so far during these friendly matches. Just two minutes into the game, the home side were in the lead, the sole trialist being given minutes by Hinshelwood was once again on the scoresheet with a superb finish and the Wings not settled into play.

Worse was to come for the visitors just three minutes later, Worthing’s blistering start continued, Ollie Pearce getting in behind the Welling back line and a shot across the keeper found it’s way inside the far post for 2-0.

Five minutes gone, Welling chasing shadows and Worthing in complete control. The game settled down after the explosive opening moments although the Wings were being repelled by Worthing’s relentless attacking with Dean Cox and Jasper Pattenden giving both full backs a torrid time and the former’s delivery into the box was of the highest quality time after time,.

Efforts from the trialist and Pattenden could have extended the lead, that eventually came two minutes before half time, Shaq Gwengwe pole-axed in the penalty area, picked himself up and slotted home the penalty for a commanding half time lead.

Credit to Welling as they started the second half, there was more purpose about them and ball retention was a lot better than the opening 45 minutes which meant Worthing had to be a little more patient in their build up and the next goal didn’t arrive until just after the hour mark but not in the fashion Welling would have wanted, a back pass from a defender was placed wide of the keeper and calmly rolled into the net at the far post to sum up their evening.

The usual raft of substitutions again didn’t alter the quality of the play across the park with those coming on pressing hard to be involved in the starting eleven come the opening day.

Welling continued to press forward showing more attacking intent and were rewarded with a goal 15 minutes from time, a good strike from Dipo Akinyemi and the visitors almost had a second a minute later but for a goal line clearance from Joel Colbran.

Reece Meekums put the icing on the cake five minutes from time with a superb solo effort, twisting and turning the visitors defence inside out from the left wing before smashing the ball home to complete a comprehensive victory once again for the Rebels and leaving home supporters purring with the football on offer over the past three weeks.

It’s hard to pick out individuals over a classic team performance but it’s got to be done. Hinsh doesn’t often go for two up front and with Pearce and Gwengwe in great form so far both deserved the start. It was interesting to watch Pearce and the trialist often inter-changing making it harder for the opposition to pick either player up to mark.

Should the Rebels be able to sign the trialist whose made quite an impression on the pitch, he can easily be the difference between winning a few more points and a title or the play-offs in my opinion. The pockets of space he finds in games between the lines makes him very hard to mark and creating that can give the side an extra dimension.

But, if he doesn’t sign then there are plenty of players within that squad who are equally capable to provide the same flashes of brilliance. The delivery from Cox was constantly spot on the money, something you would expect from a player with his class and quality and with those balls into the box week in week out defenders are going to have their work cut out.

On the other wing you have Pattenden able to deliver or cut inside and unleash the mother of all curling shots whilst Danny Barker and Marvin Armstrong make you not miss Jesse Starkey and Ricky Aguiar and they are some midfield pairing!

One more to note, Tom Chalaye. Looked very sharp when he came on, could have had a goal or two, notably the timing of his runs were on the mark and having bulked up some over the last year or so like Pattenden he’s becoming harder to knock off the ball when in possession.

510 were there to witness the goal-fest, a lot of work for Steve Lovell and Welling Utd to do over the next three weeks before their season begins, there can’t have been too many that came out of last week with much credit in the tank going forward.

2021/22 kicks off at the Sportsfield

Around 24 hours after England reunited the nation after a tough 15 months for everyone, I was back watching live football with a trip up the road to see Littlehampton Town take on two divisions higher Bognor Regis Town in the opening pre-season friendly for both sides.

It also marked the opening of the home side’s new floodlights, contributed by sponsorship donations from its supporters and the general public with the work carried out by Dave Wade who I know well from the repairs completed at Wick FC when I was there.

A reasonable size crowd estimated at around 200 saw the home side start in a fast manner against a Bognor side who utilised their whole squad over the course of the 90 minutes. Town certainly had the more attacking intent in the early stages as Bognor slowly felt their way into the game but chances were at a premium which maybe wasn’t surprising given it was the first action for both sides.

The home side took the lead just before the half hour mark through George Gaskin from a well delivered Mitch Hand corner on the right, Gaskin being deployed more in the number 10 role rather than the left wing he enjoyed much success on last season before it’s interruption. The striker was close to extending the home side’s lead not long after but the ball struck the outside of the post and away to safety.

As it was Littlehampton went into the break two goals in front as Gaskin pounced on a defensive mix up between keeper and defender and slotted home at the far post.

Regis made a raft of substitutions at half time and certainly began the second half much the stronger team which Littlehampton found hard to contain and it was no surprise when Jordy Mongoy fired past James Binfield in the Littlehampton goal five minutes after the re-start.

It did look as if that would open the floodgates but the home side weathered the storm and worked their way back into the game but were unable to carve out any opportunities with Bognor much tighter at the back than during the first half.

The visitors were back on level terms 22 minutes from time when substitute Alfie Lis pounced on a poor back pass to Binfield, rounded the keeper and restored parity once again.

Neither side fashioned out many good scoring opportunities in the closing stages and both sides were left to reflect on a good workout for those involved, the new floodlights shining down some fantastic light across the pitch despite the natural July evening trying to prevail.

Despite not being the biggest fan of pre-season games I can’t wait to get around over the next three weeks or so and see friends, people I know at clubs and the enjoyment being at a football match brings. If it comes home on Sunday evening, then I think it completes and heals a lot of the past few months, over to you Gareth Southgate, we still believe………..

Live football at last

Football. Fresh air. Fans. Tuesday night up and down the country was the moment non-league supporters had been waiting for since mid-December, a return to the stands and terraces that was long overdue.

However, most clubs have finished or didn’t even begin to play and a lot of fans will be eagerly anticipating pre-season friendlies which will begin in around four or five weeks’ time for Step 5 and 6 clubs.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything to significantly blog about other than the National League and the sorry state of Barnet’s season. So the announcement of one of my local sides, East Preston, to host a friendly against Pitching In Isthmian Premier Division Worthing was always going to get me into the ground.

It was the first time the PNLP (Premier Non-League Podcast) boys minus the northern based Chris May were out together at a game, a project I’m involved in with five other guys, 15 episodes in so far which isn’t bad considering we’ve had a real lack of football to talk about in months, available across all podcast platforms twice a month.

Regular readers will know I also write a piece for the EP programme, a different one for each home game and unique to them as I try and build a career. They were also my focus club last season when Terry Dodd became manager, an idea given to me by someone else so duly done. Terry obviously then left, Chris Horner took over only to be replaced by Under 23 duo Mike McCaffrey and Lee Thompson who were in situ when football ceased in November and took charge of the side for the recent Supplementary Shield games.

Since then McCaffrey left the club, Thompson was relieved of his duties in the past two weeks and chairman Terry Doyle installed ex Arundel boss Simon Hull as the new man in charge days after his release from the club up the river, McCaffrey has since returned to take the Under 23’s for next season.

With a new man in charge 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 anyone to see Worthing dominate possession and whilst they were creating chances, the EP defence were just about equal to everything and 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 to give the visitors a commanding 3-0 half time lead.

The fourth goal arrived courtesy of Shaq Gwengue after a fine move and a smart finish, Rebels manager Adam Hinshelwood then making a raft of substitutions with most of the senior players making way.

EP’s best chance of the game came from a free kick just outside the box, the ball clipping the top of the Worthing crossbar on it’s way over and into the trees behind the goal.

As EP legs naturally tired as the game wore on Worthing added another three goals to the scoreline to give it a flattering look of 7-0 by the final whistle but a good workout for both sets of players.

On Wednesday morning I caught up with both Simon and Adam and both agreed having fans back in to watch was the biggest part of this game.

‘Fantastic to see fans back in the ground’ remarked Hull, ‘it gives everyone a lift and there was a great buzz around the Lashmar last night.’

‘Last night 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 are planning pre-season training and that will start very early. Plenty to do but the boys are keen and the coaching staff are very willing.’

Hinshelwood was also very pleased to have supporters back, ‘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, firstly it would have been a long time if we had waited just for pre-season to get some match practise into the legs and I believe this would heighten the risk of injury.’

‘Secondly, 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.’

And I think fans can identify with the mental health part, so many people I’ve spoken to over the months wanting a bit of normality, indeed seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd of 250 people shows how much it was wanted.

Great to be out with mates just enjoying the game, hopefully The Hive beckons for me for the next week to finish off the season then the hard work starts again trying to get this writing career off the ground, if any clubs are interested in what I can do for them you’ve only got to ask East Preston, Langney Wanderers or Met Police……………….