Worthing 5 vs Lewes 4: The very thin red & black line

Well, where to start with that?

First, we were sorry to hear manager Tony Russell was at home in bed with Covid, with rumours swirling that he’d caught it off his cool box. Nobody was sitting on it yesterday – a sensible precaution.

Little known to most Rooks fans, chairman Stu had installed a temporary manager as a stand-in for Cool Box Tone. He’ll join us later for a look back at each of the goals we conceded. And, boy, did we concede some goals.

For the first 15 minutes, it looked like it was going to be a fabulous afternoon, one we’d be gloating about in Worthing’s micro-breweries for hours to come.

Ollie Tanner got the ball rolling in the tenth minute. He shimmied his way into the box, did an about turn and invited a sloppy challenge from Danny Barker to give the Rooks the most obvious penalty since I was done for doing 85mph on the A23 to Margate a fortnight ago (sorry, officer). Joe Taylor did what Joe Taylor does and converted the spot-kick.

Delerium rained in the Rooks end two minutes later, when Worthing took the brave decision to leave 6ft 4in Matt Weaire unmarked at the back post for a free-kick and he duly planted a powerful header past Worthing’s dinky shot-stopper, Harrison Male. (Chant of the Day, by the way, goes to Dave Lamb, for a beautiful rendition of Elton John’s “Hold me closer, tiny keeper” in the second half.)

Alas, the good times lasted about as long as an iPhone battery. Over to our stand-in manager, Derek Grim:

I told the lads, if there’s one thing I cannot stand it’s fannying around. Gawd alone knows what Klassy was listening to in the dressing room, because when he had the ball in our six-yard box, it was all namby-pamby, shilly-shally, tiki-taki, willy-nilly, after-you-madam cobblers. If Debenhams was still trading, they’d have gift-wrapped it for Worthing. Give me strength.

It was Ollie Pearce who profited from our defensive generosity after 16 minutes, nicking the ball off the dithering Klass and slamming it past Carey. And it was Pearce who would bring the game level on the half hour, although not before Joel Colbran whacked a Joe Taylor effort off the line that would have given Lewes a more comfortable 3-1 cushion. Alas, it was Klass who was culpable once more for the Worthing equaliser.

Michael, Michael, Michael. I am all for the rough-and-tumble, the have-that-monsieur, the take-him-down-the-nick-and-give-him-a-bloody-good-hiding side of the game. But when you let a ball bounce over your head and the fella’s in the penalty box, you cannot, cannot, karate-kick the lad in the chest. It ain’t cricket.

Pearce converted the penalty and it was all square. But not for long… The Lewes defence were on the ropes, gasping for breath and trying to give Worthing a cuddle just to make it stop. They didn’t. And it was pantomime villain Dayshonne Golding who made it 3-2 to the hosts, when we decided to let Jasper Pattenden have the freedom of West Sussex to pick out a cross before Golding swept it low past Carey.

You don’t need to be the head of the F-B-bleeding-I to know about Dayshonne Chuffing Golding. Yes, he’ll go down quicker than Norwich City; yes, he’ll moan like Meg bleeding Ryan every time someone brushes his ponytail; yes, he’s a massive tit. But he used to be our tit and he used to be a bit bloody handy around the goalmouth. Would it be too much trouble to mark him?

If Cool Box Tone’s assistants were reminding the lads what the d-word meant at half-time, they weren’t paying much attention. Because no more than 30 seconds into the second half we were 4-2 down, and this time it was Dayshonne who was given a Freedom Pass to run down the wing, putting in a terrific cross that Pattenden headed past Carey.

Christ on a Halford’s bike. We’d just spent 15 sodding minutes drilling the lads at the back on what a good old-fashioned tackle looked like, and they go out all don’t-mind-me, how’s-your-mother, have-a-look-at-what-you-could-have-won, and within half a minute we’ve handed them a goal that’s so bleeding soft, it could run for the board of directors at Lewes FC. (If they ever announce an AGM, that is!)

Four turned to five in the 72nd minute, although not before Golding had missed a free header. However, he collected his second goal eventually, when a routine free-kick wasn’t dealt with and he prodded home the knock-down.

Hawaii-Five-Oh. I don’t know what they taught this lot at Hendon, but when a free-kick is bunged into your box, you get your big lads goal side and nut it away. It’s Rosie-and-Jim, it’s bread-and-butter, it’s John-knobbing-Major-back-to-basics defending. For Pete’s sake lads, pay attention. It’s your cock-up, my arse!

At this point, Theresa May stood more chance of a comeback than the Rooks. We looked flat out. But Worthing decided to show a little defensive generosity of their own, with the hapless Colbran conceding another penalty. Ollie Tanner – who had skewered the full-back all afternoon – burst down the left-hand flank and the right-back stuck an arm out to stop the cross. Joe Taylor did what Joe Taylor does. Again.

A brief glimmer of hope turned into a full-blown tsunami of optimism three minutes later, when the ball dropped to Ollie Tanner on the edge of the box and – despite my repeated pleas not to shoot – he unleashed a shot so vicious that it would still be travelling now had the net not bravely got in the way.

What a player. I’ve not been this excited since the second series of Starsky & Hutch. I mean, we need to do something about the hair. Get the boy down to Topper’s and give him a number-two-all-over, something-for-the-weekend, here’s-a-tenner-and-keep-the-change Barnet, but Michael-bloody-Aspel, that lad is special. Cuff him until he signs a ten-year contract.

Alas, redemption didn’t quite arrive. Tanner had another superb effort palmed away by Ronnie Corbett in the Worthing goal, but that was as close as we came to a sensational comeback.

Make no mistake. Despite more lapses than the Government’s Covid defences, this was a ridiculously good game of football. At £12 to get in, it worked out at £1.33 per goal, which is the kind of value that even Gary The Badge wouldn’t moan about.

If we can stop shipping goals, nobody will mind one bit if we have to pay a bit more for each one.

Lewes: Carey, Yao, Carlse, Weaire, Nelson, Klass, Maloney, Pritchard, Tanner, Coleman De-Graft, Taylor

Subs: Colombie, D’Arienzo, Olukoga, Parker, Moore

Video highlights: