Ken Charles’ 23rd minute goal wasn’t enough for the Scholars as they lost at home to league leaders Worthing on Tuesday.
It was a cold night at the LA Construction Stadium, as the pitch had to pass its 3PM inspection. O’Leary opted to bring Cathline back into the squad, also giving a home debut to Franc Silinou.
Bar started the game with an attacking intent, as Esan had his first shot on goal just 3 minutes in, with his effort gong wide.
The game had an exceptionally high tempo to it in the opening stages, as both sides looked to assert themselves in the tie, however there were a lack of real clear-cut chances.
This run was ended by the time Charles scored midway into the first half, as he latched onto a perfectly weighted through ball from Livings, rounded Rees (who played in goal for Worthing) and scored to give the Maroons the lead.
Charles continued to be proactive, as he chased a long ball and fed the ball back to Esan, who was tackled well to prevent him from scoring 36 minutes in.
Worthing did threaten before the interval, as Koroma headed just wide from a cross 5 minutes before the break.
The Scholars nearly conceded just before half time, when Burbidge picked the ball up twice to prevent a trailing leg catching the ball he was about to hit, which the referee gave an indirect free kick against Burbidge for. The effort from the resulting set piece was however blocked well by Young.
Half time saw Bar go in leading a game that they had performed magnificently in thus far. They were deservedly in front at the halfway stage and had hoped to carry that through to secure all 3 points.
The Scholars kicked off the second half in front of a record 313 crowd for the season so far, as they were able to hold off the Mackerel Men initially after the break.
The crucial change in the game appeared to be when Worthing made a double substitution, as Pattenden and top goal scorer Diallo made way for Golding and Starkey. Golding in particular would have a huge influence on the game.
The first action of the half for Burbidge forced him into a magnificent save, as he threw himself at the ball that was driven into the box, making a crucial stop from short range, a save that would see him require treatment afterwards.
It was then another cross that gave Worthing their equaliser. Debutant Koroma got himself on the end of a floated cross with 20 minutes to go to begin their comeback.
The Scholars nearly had an instant response when Rees made a stunning stop to deny a swerving volley from Payne that the goalkeeper had to backtrack to tip over the crossbar.
There was a great chance for O’Leary’s side in the 76th minute, as a corner found Cole, who forced a great save from Rees but only as far as Charles who shot but a crucial block prevented him from finding the net.
It was evident that the momentum shifted in Worthing’s favour after that. Burbidge made a fine stop to keep the scores level with 9 minutes to go and Tingey narrowly avoided putting the ball in his own net just 5 minutes before added time.
Koroma gave Worthing their late winner in the 87th minute. A corner caused a goalmouth scramble which was forced home by the man who had now grabbed a brace and all three points for the league leaders. It was the sign of champions that they had managed to get the win from an even and very difficult night for the travelling side.
The Maroons pushed for a late equaliser through set pieces that were ultimately wasted, as they had left too little time to shift the result back in their favour.
Full time saw a dejected Scholars side come away from a fantastic encounter empty handed. They could take several positives from the performance, however they were not rewarded for their efforts with any points.
You can find O’Leary’s interview after the game here.