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Worthing 1
Wheeler (95')
0 Tonbridge Angels

Late, late despair for the Angels

As sure as the clouds would re-open as the sizeable contingent of Angels supporters left Woodside Road following the final whistle, it would be a former favourite that would settle this game right at the death.

Worthing has never been a place where the Angels have enjoyed their share of good fortune and, sadly, the opening of season 2023/24 proved no different. 

For his first competitive selection of the season, Jay Saunders was without Jernade Meade and Joe Boachie to injury, whilst Stefan Payne and Joe Turner took places on the bench following their own injury concerns. Tommie Fagg continued his role as the front man with Ben Swift returning to the centre of defence.

The game had begun in rain of monsoon proportions that continued through the vast majority of the first half in which chances were at a premium and far less prevalent than the flourishing of the yellow card by referee George Warren.

Tonbridge Angels’ Kodi Lyons-Foster was the first to incur the wrath of the referee with a caution after just seven minutes and this would become significant later in the game. After 34 minutes, in which neither goalkeeper had been seriously tested, Ollie Pearce twice shot narrowly over for Worthing and five minutes before the break, Lewis Gard steered a header wide.

A minute later and Angels supporters were incensed and mystified as a long ball forward saw Fagg in a foot race with Worthing defender Aarron Racine. The Worthing defender, losing the race, scythed down the Tonbridge front man, only for the referee to wave away any appeals. It was a last man situation and had the referee viewed it differently, it would have been a red card for the Worthing defender.

The rain eased during the second period and, after 52 minutes, the best chance of the match so far, fell to Worthing’s Reece Meekums who brought a good save from Jonny Henly. The Angels keeper followed up two minutes later pushing away an edge of the box free kick from Pearce.

The Angels started to make chances of their own with home custodian Roco Rees saving from Ruben Soares-Junior and Gard and were well in the game until the 81st minute when Lyons-Foster was shown a second yellow leaving the Angels to see out the game a man short. 

However, the game appeared to be meandering towards a goalless draw as it entered seven minutes of added time, but, after a series of corners, and with less than a minute remaining, the ball fell to former Angels favourite Nicky Wheeler, who from 20 yards fired a shot into the bottom corner to seal the points for the hosts.

Jay Saunders commented; “It’s always a kick in the teeth to lose in injury time. For large parts we were solid but key moments change games. At that point it looked like it had nil-nil written all over it. When you go down to ten men it’s difficult but I didn’t feel threatened.”

Published Saturday 5th August 2023 (last updated Sunday 6th August 2023)