New-look Worthing keep Lewes youngsters at bay

Action from Worthing v Lewes Foundation, Sep 25 2016 (Photo: Sent her Forward)Worthing 4 (Robinson 16, 75; Worsfold 36, 79)
Lewes Foundation 1 (Carter 90)

New badge, new name, new home – and half a new team. But for the side formerly known as Worthing Minors, the outcome was much the same as normal.

A lot has gone on since Minors finished a slightly disappointing fourth in the South East Counties Women’s Football League that they had won the previous season.

Not least, as with most young sides, university intervened, forcing manager Andy Burling to put together yet another new team.

But this summer saw even more radical change as the club disbanded to join the Worthing FC revolution – now playing their home games at the impressively revamped Woodside Road, home to myriad men’s teams and now a quality women’s side.

They’re still bedding in – as was demonstrated by their 4-2 opening-day defeat by Cowfold earlier this month, which left an indelible mark on both players and management.

But they’re clearly making progress, bouncing back from that loss with a 6-0 win over Burgess Hill Town, and then slotting another four goals past Lewes today.

Their opponents are also very much in transition – a challenge for manager Martin Perkins made doubly difficult by the fact that they are now playing at a higher level, having been promoted last season in only their second campaign in adult football.

They have lost the core of the wonderful side that progressed through the age groups in recent years to establish themselves in county football.

Perkins’ new side boasts several players from the newly formed Lewes academy, at Newman College, and with a side packed with 16-year-olds, their learning curve looks slightly steeper than that of their hosts today.

Not that they didn’t play their part in a good match, in very windy conditions on Worthing’s all-weather surface.

But they were never quite in command, despite a rally in the first half and an even better one in the second, when for a while they took their game to the more experienced opponents, and Worthing deserved their victory.

It was the host’s experienced captain, Naomi Robinson, who controlled the game, scoring two trademark goals, while one of their summer signings, Gemma Worsfold, who switched to Woodside Road when rivals Rottingdean Village folded, bagged the other two.

Millie Carter’s 90th-minute goal, direct from a corner, was no more than a consolation as they fell to their second defeat from two games, their sights set in the medium term rather than here and now.

Action from Worthing v Lewes Foundation, September 25 2016 (Photo: Sent Her Forward)Carter, just 16, was a revelation in midfield, as was Ava Rowbotham, both showing a composure and awareness beyond their years.

But they were up against a formidable central-midfield pairing in Robinson and Hannah Hewlett, another new signing, who dictated much of the play.

For large spells of the first half, Lewes struggled to secure meaningful possession in opposition territory, and when they did, they came up against a superbly organised Worthing defence, in which Megan Cave and Katie Burling excelled.

But the young visitors were not overawed, and as their confidence grew, so did the quality of their football, with willing runners Lauren Amerena and Lucy Apps giving Worthing’s back four plenty to think about.

But it was the home side who took the lead on 16 minutes, Robinson beating goalkeeper Faye Hannaford with a free-kick from best part of 30 yards.

The visitors almost responded instantly, Amerena heading their first corner of the match through a sea of legs, but against the post and to safety.

They had another chance to equalise when Worsfold kicked Carter after the ball had gone to concede a free-kick 20 yards out. But Carter hit the kick straight at Angharad Hills in the Worthing goal.

The hosts responded with a long ball through to Jodi Ward, but as she approached Hannaford, she screwed her shot wide.

Moments later, the same player got a shot on target after Alice Chambers cleverly found her from a corner. But Hannaford was equal to the task.

As Worthing took a grip on the game, they, too, hit the woodwork when Robinson collected a pass from Worsfold and hit a shot on the run that struck the bar.

Lewes had Hannaford to thank when she foiled Worsfold after she latched on to another ball over the top on 33 minutes.

But three minutes later Worsfold got her revenge, just reaching another through-ball ahead of Hannaford to make it 2-0.

Still Lewes hit back, but Burling was having an outstanding game at left-back, showing another clever piece of skill to turn defence into attack.

Half-time: Worthing 2-0 Lewes Foundation

Worthing started the second half much as they had finished the first, and Megan Gates, one of Lewes’s substitutes had to be at her best to halt Alice Chambers in her tracks as she bore down on goal.

With Carter being rested, Rowbotham took over the reins in the Lewes midfield, but for all her prompting and imaginative passing, Worthing’s defence looked impregnable, Cave and Kim Chrimes stopping everything the visitors could throw at them.

With an hour played, the game opened up a little more, both sides appearing to tire on the big pitch, with a strong wind making ball control tricky.

Amy Perkins headed a corner straight at Hills, and moments later Robinson almost got her second, shooting narrowly over after a strong run from the halfway line.

On 63 minutes, the stage was set for a carbon-copy goal as Robinson took a free-kick, 30 yards out, but her effort was going just wide when second-half goalkeeper Charlotte Greenlees punched it away to make sure.

In the 72nd minute, Hills kept Worthing’s lead intact, firstly keeping out Amerena’s fine shot after she was well found by Holly Clarke, and then racing across her goal to save Lucy Jellett’s follow-up.

Worthing responded with a fine passing move involving Robinson, Ward and Worsfold, but under great pressure from Geri Burt, the striker shot straight at Greenlees.

Action from Worthing v Lewes Foundation, September 25 2016 (Photo: Sent Her Forward)With Carter back on to wrest back a degree of control in midfield, Lewes continued to make Worthing work for their victory, and a superb piece of play by the former Hangleton Rangers youngster put Megan Stevens away, but again the end-product was missing.

And in the 75th minute Worthing killed off the game with another magnificent strike from Robinson, who slalomed through some half-hearted tackles before rifling a superb shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.

The 3-0 lead enabled manager Burling to replace Hills – who is due to miss a few games because of surgery – with his back-up goalkeeper, Lani Smith.

Four minutes later it was 4-0 as Worsfold found the top corner from 20 yards after the Lewes defence had failed to clear.

To their credit, the visitors refused to give up, Carter again showing her class to thread a perfect pass between two defenders and into the path of Stevens, but her shot was blocked by the industrious Cave.

The woodwork was rattled for a third time on 86 minutes when the excellent Hewlett played in the impressive Abi Mason, her shot striking the angle of post and bar.

Still Lewes strived for a consolation. Clarke found Rowbotham with another cute ball, but Chrimes was alert to the danger and covered brilliantly.

However, right on 90 minutes they did get the goal their endeavour had deserved, Carter sending an inswinging corner straight into the net.

Verdict

Both of these fine teams are in the process of rebuilding, and it’s fair to say today’s game was contested between two works in progress.

But there is no doubting the technical ability on either side, nor a willingness to fight for the cause. Only experience, greater fitness and an understanding of each other’s games need to be added to the mix – and in that respect, Worthing are certainly ahead of their rivals.

But Lewes, playing three at the back in a competitive game for the first time, showed plenty of signs of being ready to learn.

Reaction

Andy Burling (Worthing): ‘We’ve got to get promotion’

“It was exactly what we needed (after the defeat to Cowfold). We had a 6-0 (win) last time, and then we had a break. To come back after the break with that was actually a good result.

“Lewes were totally not what I expected. I thought they were going to be small – good on the ball – but they were so physical. They actually matched us, physically. They’re a really good side.

“But our goals were different class. We also had some key players missing, so I’m pleased with that.

“We have got to win the league. We’ve got to get promotion – it’s part of the agreement we’ve got with the club. We’re going to push for promotion this year and then move on.”

Worthing FC's Woodside Road stadium (Photo: Sent Her Forward)

The former Worthing Minors now play their home games at Worthing FC’s impressive Woodside Road stadium

Martin Perkins (Lewes): ‘I’ve got a full notebook’

“We’ve got a squad of 20-plus players now, all of whom bar six are new. We’ve got a couple of under-19s, but all the rest are under 17. So it is like starting again.

“But there’s a lot of talent there, and we’ve just got to take that talent (and turn) individuals into squads.

“It was the first time we’ve played three at the back today, so that was a learning experience for them and us. I’ve got a full notebook.

“They’re young and enthusiastic, and that works in our favour. We played Cowfold the other week and lost 2-0. Their manager’s view was that we were the better side but they were better organised and more experienced, and I think it was probably similar today.

“We’ve played three games together so far – one friendly and two league games – so it’s going to take time for it to come together.

“Worthing are a good side. They’re experienced – especially their captain (Naomi Robinson). She controlled the game from their perspective. That was one of the differences.

“It was a good game. We played well in pockets. I think this season [our intention] is just to gel as a team. The league table is irrelevant for me.

“Obviously, I don’t want to lose every game 4-1, but it’s to develop as a squad, be more mature and play good football – and obviously prep the individuals that I can to get into the development squad. That’s the objective.”

Sent Her Forward player of the match: Megan Cave (Worthing Minors)

It’s so difficult to see beyond the lavishly talented Naomi Robinson, who again played a massively influential role in Worthing’s victory. But Cave never put a foot wrong, combining well with the experienced Kim Chrimes to thwart Lewes’s talented strikers at every turn.

Key contributions

Alongside Robinson in midfield, Hannah Hewlett had a dominant game. ChrimesKatie Burling and Abi Mason were also impressive, while Gemma Worsfold was a constant threat.

Lewes were also strong in midfield, with Ava Rowbotham outstanding and Millie Carter also producing a performance of composure that belied her age. Behind them, Amy Perkins produced some trademark pinpoint passing, while Lauren Amerena and Lucy Apps will surely provide headaches for lesser defences with their pace and movement.

Sent Her Forward match rating: 7/10 Keenly contested, with plenty of skill to match the endeavour.

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