Here we go again, with another THROWBACK THURSDAY, where we honour and pay homage to past Worthing teams, players and coaches. This week however, we will be honouring a specific match. Many players have requested this particular match, calling it one of the greatest games Worthing has ever played. It is certainly and widely thought of as one of the more complete performances of any Worthing team.
Cast your minds back to 2005, and to Worthing’s favourite home, The Aquarena. The SCASA Cup was the compettiton and featured an FA Cup style draw, in which Worthing drew a home match against the high flying National League Division 1 team, Otter. Based in London, Otter had developed an impressive squad, very often obtaining excellent over seas talent from the London Universities. They dominated the National League Second Division, the season before, putting them in division 1 and they turned up at the Aquarena, for the 9pm Wednesday night match oozing with confidence.
Worthing were fairly nonchelant. We weren’t meant to win and the team talk although brief, was more concerned with containing our top level opposition, with all their talent and little else.
The referees in control of the match were Spud Murphy and the late great Peter “Budgie” Baxter. And what followed is planted firmly in the minds of the players involved and the spectators on hand.
Here’s how things unfolded, according to the match sheet:
1st quarter: Otter took less than 30 second to take a well expected 1 goal lead. However, Worthing responded on the very next play through Paul Phillpott with the equaliser. After a further minute or so, Otter restore their lead in a match that appeared surprisingly even with a very strategic feel. Worthing would gain a man up advantage on their next attack and Nathan Hart would equalise. Rather surprisingly it would be Worthing that would finish the quarter strong, first with a Richard Hooper penalty followed by Paul Phillpotts second goal of the match. 4-2 to Worthing at the end of the 1st.
2nd quarter: The game ebbed and flowed for around 3 minutes, with both teams showing a combination of excellent defence and poor shot selection. With a little over 4 minutes remaining in the 2nd, Otter looked to be wrestling the momentum away from Worthing making it 4-3. However, once again Worthing would dig deep and finish the half the better team, taking advantage of 2 consecutive man up plays, firstly through Dave Hoad and secondly Matt White, putting Worthing up a surprising 6-3.
3rd quarter: Before the quarter began, during the team talk, Worthing highlighted repeatedly that a comeback was likely, and again the attention turned more toward shutting down the opposition rather than increasing the lead. However, the following quarter panned out very differently. Worthing would open the scoring through Scott Orchard and stretch the lead to 4. What followed was a defensive masterpiece, enduring not one, but 2 Worthing exclusions, keeping Otter goal less in the 3rd, as well as adding another through Scott Orchard on a man up.
4th quarter: This was it. The comeback was sure to be initiated now. Otter were far to good, far to experienced and far to confident not to force a monumental turn around. Worthing would prepare for an onslaught that never came. Defending with even more tenaciousness, Ben Alcorn would once again keep a clean sheet, with Worthing adding yet more goals to the tally, through Matt White and Richard Hooper in a fairly incident free final quarter. And the match was over.
There was the awkwardness of the post match handshakes between players and the obligatory 3 cheers for the opponent’s team. The coaches however would not shake hands. And as legend would have it, it would be a very long time before the Otter coach would even talk to Alastair Roberts again.
What Otter failed to realise, as did a number of Worthings opposition through this period, was that within the walls of the Aquarena, making up the squad of 13 that night were a host of National League Division 1 players, both at that time and for years prior, 2 ASA National Cup winners, and 3 players that had been involved with various England and GB Squads.
And so we come to the end of another THROWBACK THURSDAY, honouring one of the greatest games in Worthing’s history. We salute you!