Eastbourne Borough moved smoothly into the semi-final of the Parafix Sussex Senior Cup on Tuesday night at a freezing Priory Lane, where two first-half strikes were enough to clinch the tie.
The Rebels have enjoyed some superb cup successes this season - with their FA Trophy adventure not yet over - and they arrived at Priory Lane on an unbeaten run of 15 games. But, in a rematch of last season's Amex final, decided by a late Nat Pinney winner, the Sports were always dominant and the 2-0 victory was deserved.
In truth the 261 hardy spectators, all well gloved and mufflered against the biting January night, enjoyed a fine game with plenty of flowing football from both sides, but they might well have seen more goals. Borough dominated the ball for long spells but missed umpteen chances to extend their lead, while Worthing put together some excellent swift moves but were wasteful in front of goal.
Tommy Widdrington gave starts to former Academy striker Josh Street and to newly signed full-back Ryan Case. An even contest looked in prospect, but Eastbourne struck a crucial early blow. Miguel Baptista fed Ryan Worrall 30 yards out, and the Borough midfielder struck an absolute screamer past keeper Fagan into the top left corner.
Worthing struggled for a spell, but by mid-way through the half they were making inroads. On 22 minutes Aaron Hopkinson cut in from the right all the way to the six-yard box, but the ball was cleared off his toe. And just past the half-hour Lloyd Dawes got a good sight of goal on the edge of the box, but fluffed his finish high over the bar.
Borough had been making and missing chances of their own, Street cleverly fed Nat Pinney, who swerved past three defenders in a run reminiscent of his Amex winner, but ran out of room and saw his shot blocked. Then Baptista, with Josh Hare perfectly placed outside him and begging for the pass, chose to shoot and skied his effort into the car park. Decisions, decisions.
At the other end Lloyd Dawes pounded clear on the break but similarly shot wildly: still 1-0 when we should have been looking at a scoreline of about 4-2. But on 35 minutes Borough doubled the lead. Worrall's long free-kick was cleverly nodded down by Mark Hughes to Elliott Romain, who veered round the left of the Worthing defence and scored decisively from a tight angle.
Some frantic defending then denied Nat Pinney after he had shimmied clear of Fagan but delayed his shot, and just before the interval Fagan brilliantly touched a Pinney rocket just over the bar. Between those two chances, Dawes had raced away on another Worthing raid, but pulled his shot across goal and beyond the far post.
The second half saw a similar pattern, more scrapes and goalmouth scrambles, but no more goals. The Sports were moving the ball with purpose and invention, and at times their play was as good as anything they have produced this season. Pinney, often pivotal in the forward movements, met a perfect Baptista cross with a pussy-cat header, and then the same striker combined magically with Hughes but was foiled by a brave Fagan, who also tipped another Pinney shot away. Then a Ryan Case cross was deflected on to the underside of the bar and away to safety, and somehow the Rebels were still clinging on.
Indeed, a Worthing goal would have made for a tasty final phase, but three substitutions failed to turn the game, and the Sports had progressed to the semi-finals with an impressive display.
Eastbourne Borough: Holmes, Hare, Case, Hughes (Bosma 86), Simpemba, Dutton, Baptista (Oxlade-Chamberlain 90), Worrall, Pinney, Romain, Street (Taylor 70). Unused subs: Tate, Ransom.
Worthing: Fagan, Hendon, Rents, Wills, Boiling, Watson, Dawes, O'Neill (Hallard 68), Brodie (Bugiel 65), Hopkinson (Denyer-Schneider 80), Lemon. Unused subs: Belward, Elphick.
Referee: Matt Goldsmith Att: 261
Borough MoM: Ryan Worrall - busy performance and smashing goal