Report by Steve Price
Some torrential rain in the early hours had some of us wondering whether this 10am kick off would be on but in fact the pitch was looking great, if anything the surface all the better for being softer than of late. This was a match to relish, two established A Division teams giving their all in the Challenge Cup, winner takes all.
The home side started the better of the two teams, stronger in the challenge and more composed in possession. They were winning all the second balls too. Chi chased and pressed but couldn’t prevent an early Worthing opening, fortunately for the visitors the chance was squandered. It was 8 minutes before Chi made headway at the other end, quick passing – it had to be as Worthing were snapping at the white shirts all the way – Brennan to Daley to Gallop to Bennetts who shot from the edge of the box. Nothing from it except some encouragement.
Worthing wasted another chance, this time from their lad out on the right who was the target for so many of their attacks. Everything was coming his way but Brennan (and later Good) kept tight to reduce his influence, while Robinson and Simmons covered. Relieving the pressure Price evaded 2 challenges and hit the target from 18 yards but the shot was on the stretch and consequently too weak. One area where Chi were looking dangerous was in exploiting the space behind the full-backs, particularly down the right. Twice Bennetts hit sublime balls on the diagonal for Peyman to take at pace but twice the shots were repelled. Price and Brennan came off for breathers and Good and Wallis entered the fray, the latter getting a scrambled shot on target moments later.
Chi had steadied the ship and were now at least level in terms of possession. The midfield of Bennetts, Daley, Gallop and Martin were doing what they’ve now done together for years, battling, contesting every ball and gradually exerting control. Bennetts took the ball probably 30 yards out and looking up fancied his chances, his shot clearing the vociferous ‘keeper and seizing the lead. With half an hour gone Chi had to concentrate and remain resolute, Worthing had upped their game but were visibly feeling the pressure. Gallop was a man on a mission, his an exceptional CDM display. In an extraordinary sequence of tackling he went from one opponent to the next eventually winning the ball back. Seemingly no passing option presented itself so he banged it from 25 yards, it was straight and true but within the ‘keeper’s reach however…perhaps it was the power or perhaps the goalie was taken by surprise…it slipped through his grasp and in to the net. It had been a huge effort and at half-time it was 2-nil to Chi.
Things had clearly been said at half time to the home side. They were fired up and quickly in to their stride hitting Thorn’s post minutes after the re-start. In a mirror of what Chi had been threatening to do, Worthing played a diagonal ball behind the full-back and the No. 8 slipped it home. Now at 2-1 and with 30 minutes to go this would be a test for the visitors. Had the momentum decisively shifted? No was the answer, Bennetts going within a whisker of extending the lead after combining with Martin and Wallis down the left. Peyman and Good were off (yet more Chi injuries), Brennan was at left-back, Fellick at right, Wallis was up front and Price was providing width on the right. Wallis intercepted a stray pass, he was immediately challenged but such was his awareness that he dinked the ball over the Worthing leg and struck a shot at goal from distance. It fell short of the target but it had energy enough to lift over the ‘keeper and bounce over the crossbar. What a piece of skill and so, so nearly a goal.
The game was opening up as the home side had to push forward in search of the equaliser. Price ran at the defence beating 3 challenges but was off balance and his shot veered wide. Wallis hit another from distance catching it beautifully but the ‘keeper was well positioned. As the match reached a crescendo Robinson and Simmons were immense dealing with whatever came their way including some huge kicks from the home goalie. Brennan timed a tackle in the penalty area exquisitely, Thorn showed safe hands dealing with a high shot. As the clock ticked, Gallop found himself further forward than usual, twisting in the area. The defenders gave him the benefit of their close attention bundling him to the ground. Penalty. Martin stepped up – the coolest man at the ground – and stroked it home.
There was time for Fellick to make one more crunching tackle but that was it. Chi had won to progress in the Cup, and what a cup-tie it had been. Well done both teams but especially well done to Chi whose togetherness was apparent and their mutual support so good, winning as a team.
Team: Thorn (GK), Brennan, Robinson, Simmons, Fellick, Daley, Gallop, Martin, Bennetts (C), Peyman, Price, Good, Wallis.
Man of the Match: Wallis.