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.

Rebels too strong for lacklustre Angels

This season I think I’ve watched more pre-season friendlies than the last few years put together. Maybe it’s the lure of missing the game being played on the pitch in front of me instead of the television for most of the last seven months and the quality I’ve seen so far hasn’t disappointed me.

Worthing vs Tonbridge was on my radar from the time it was announced a while ago, two managers in Adam Hinshelwood and Steve McKimm who have been very helpful to me when it comes to blogs and indeed Steve took me around the London lights back in December in his black cab, a birthday treat to myself.

Tonbridge is also around the area I originally come from as well so always a glance towards their results, I grew up watching some fantastic players go through their club, the likes of the late Ray Tumbridge, Mark Gilham, Neil and Paul Emblen, Roly Graham and many more that I’m sure readers will remind me of.

Rather than the wet weather predicted to fall all afternoon, the South Coast was bathed in beautiful sunshine before the sides took to the pitch and despite the Angels missing four or five likely starters, McKimm was still expecting a performance to match his opponents and once again named his own son 16 year old keeper Toby and Bobby Moore, 16 year old son to assistant manager Barry amongst the substitutes.

The opening exchanges were fairly even, the experience of Doug Loft and Ricky Modeste in the Angels midfield were matched by Danny Barker and the returning Marvin Armstrong in the middle of the park, almost trading sparring punches with neither side committing too much.

Worthing, renowned for their passing game from back to front, began to move the ball about a bit quicker and were rewarded with a penalty when a ball whipped into the box was handled by Harry Hudson, Ollie Pearce making no mistake from the spot putting the Rebels into the lead on 16 minutes.

Minutes later the Rebels were almost two goals in front, Reece Meekums put clean through lifting the ball over Angels keeper Jonny Henly only for Hudson to recover and clear the ball for a corner before it could end up in the net.

Worthing’s sole trialist should also have extended the lead on 37 minutes, heading over the bar when unmarked in the six yard box. As it was the home side didn’t have to wait long for their second goal.

Joel Colbran was allowed to stroll forward from the back line and unleashed a fierce drive from all of 25 yards past the hapless Henly to double the Rebels lead.

Tonbridge though were back in the game just before half time, Tommy Wood pouncing on a rare error from keeper Harrison Male to reduce the arrears and giving the visitors hope as they headed for the dressing rooms.

The good fortune lasted for all of three minutes in the second half as the home side’s trialist took advantage of the visitors hesitant defending and slotted home a third goal for Worthing.

Five minutes later, the scoreline was put beyond doubt with Pearce scoring his second and Worthing’s fourth from the spot once again after Pattenden was fouled inside the box whilst in full flight.

The next ten minutes allowed Hinshelwood to rest some of his starters and as per all the friendlies I’ve seen so far at all levels the quality of the game didn’t drop at all and although McKimm had just the four substitutes at his disposal they all made a decent contribution when they arrived on the pitch.

The Angels matched Worthing for chances in the final half hour, Ibrahim Olutade forcing Male into a point blank save and Sonny Miles heading over while Shaq Gwengwe’s overhead kick and Ty Mthunzi’s effort were both wide of the target and Worthing coming off comfortable winners.

For some reason it just didn’t happen for Tonbridge all afternoon, second best all over the park to a Worthing side who seem to have the knack of producing a performance whichever eleven players Hinshelwood selects.

What’s to be commended is the amount of young players on the pitch at the final whistle and having seen both McKimm and Moore being blooded during this pre-season for Tonbridge, neither looked out of place. McKimm dealt with all coming his way in the Angels goal whilst Moore looked tidy up against the experienced Darren Budd in midfield.

Worthing’s policy of youth getting it’s chance is well known, ‘providing the pathway’ is their motto and with two 14 year old’s getting their chance earlier this week, a chance they will get under Hinshelwood if you are good enough.

Speaking to both managers after game, neither was getting carried away with the result and both conceded there was plenty to take from the 90 minutes. Hinshelwood was happy with the performance one he felt wouldn’t have happened a few years ago:

‘I felt we looked fit and strong against a physically imposing Tonbridge team, maybe a game that we would have lost out on the battles individually across the pitch so that was pleasing to see.’

‘I’ve been quite pleased with the squad of players we have at the moment; I feel it allows us to play a variety of formations and also the emergence of some of our younger players who have come in and done well in recent weeks has been an added bonus for me.’

McKimm said before the kick-off he was expecting a good workout and despite missing a few players he did think it’s served as a little wake-up call:

‘I definitely learnt more from that game than from the good run we have been on so far this pre-season, there were a couple of positives to take from the game but also some negatives that we need to get to work on.’

‘It was excellent to see so many youngsters on the pitch to finish the game and if they’re good enough then they should be given a chance.’

Rebels run riot on return to Woodside

Tuesday evening saw the return of Worthing FC to Woodside Road. You might ask well surely that’s the same for most clubs who either haven’t played since late last year or those at lower levels who managed a few games behind closed doors in April and May.

The Rebels didn’t manage to play a home game last year after extensive work to replace the playing surface after countless many months of waiting and the ‘home’ matches they did get to play were up the A24 at Horsham’s Camping World Stadium.

457 fans were there to welcome the team back on home turf and along with the much better playing surface the installation of long overdue new floodlights were also given their debut on a sun kissed evening on the South Coast.

Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood kept his players fit and together once the lockdown period subsided and almost all of last season’s squad have re-signed for new campaign. Joining them are goalkeeper Harrison Male, defenders Will Seager and Pat Webber and the statement signing of former Orient midfielder Dean Cox, some uncertainty around the season long loan for Kane Wills from Dorking Wanderers it appears.

Worthing’s last competitive game before a halt was called to the season was a Sussex Senior Cup exit at the hands of Three Bridges in early November, a game the Rebels should have won but credit to Bridges who turned the game around and deservedly progressed to the next round.

But there was to be no repeat this time around as the Rebels literally blew their opponents away with a scintillating first half performance. It took just three minutes for the home side to open their account, Jasper Pattenden’s corner headed home at the back post by Aaron Racine.

Eight minutes later Worthing went further in front, a very lean and sharp looking Ollie Pearce crossed for Pattenden to tap in for 2-0. There wasn’t very long to wait for the third Rebels goal, a miscued clearance from the visiting keeper went straight to Pearce who strode into the area and netted with some aplomb.

Less than twenty minutes were on the clock when Jesse Starkey added the fourth passing the ball into the net after neat footwork from Cox and Pearce fashioned the opportunity.

It didn’t stop there as Pearce calmly fired the ball under the keeper for his second and Worthing’s fifth with a little more than 23 minutes on the clock, Bridges not able to keep hold of the ball when they did get it and Worthing just clinical with every opportunity.

Pearce thought he had his hat-trick on the half hour mark, but his free kick around the wall was inches wide of the post and the Rebels went into the half time break with a very comfortable lead.

That lead was almost increased one minute after the re-start, substitute Shaq Gwengwe capitalising on a weak back pass, beating the keeper but the ball striking the bottom of the post and away to safety.

The best goal of the night came on the hour, when Pattenden cut in from the left hand side and unleashed a curling shot into the top right hand corner for his final touch of the night. A host of changes from the home side didn’t hamper the game with Bridges still struggling to get hold of the ball and escape from their own half.

The visitors did find the back of the net thirteen minutes from time for a consolation goal, the home side then content to play out the final throws of the game without troubling the scoreline.

I’ve found in all three pre-season games I’ve watched so far with six different sides the quality is not dipping after the substitutions are made, I’m not sure if that’s because players are so eager to play and express themselves after two years of stop start football or something else but I’m not complaining at all!

The Rebels definitely look like they have enough to be in the title race once again for promotion, some big signings made and that continuity they’ve kept within the squad looks as if it will bode well for Hinshelwood and the club.

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………..