Two late goals saw Eastbourne Borough into the last eight of the Parafix Sussex Senior Cup at Priory Lane on Tuesday – but only after visitors Worthing had threatened an embarrassing upset.
Seventy-eight goalless minutes had passed when young Worthing substitute Jimmy Wild, fresh off the bench, pounded through on the break and met a left-wing cross at the front post to nudge his side ahead. But the Rebels’ jubilation lasted only three minutes, as Borough hit back through debutant striker Shaun Okojie - on loan from Aldershot - and then clinched the victory with a Matt Drage penalty.
The first half had been quite slick and very competitive, the second more scrappy and shapeless, but the tie was drifting towards extra time when the Rebels shook Borough – and shook the evening back into life – with that 78thminute opener.
With Ian Simpemba rested and Sergio Torres serving out a one-match suspension. Kane Wills took the armband against the club which he had left, very early in the season, in preference for Priory Lane. It was a move not lost on Rebels supporters, a small group of whom flourished yellow rubber snakes to a chorus of hissing whenever Wills touched the ball. Passion for your football club is always allowed, but to the neutral it looked slightly comical and rather unworthy of Worthing.
But on the pitch, the Rebels began brightly, with high tempo and adventurous attacking. Harvey Sparks shot too high at the end of one promising move, and then Ben Pope almost took advantage of a freak defensive rebound, but was crowded out.
The Sports responded with sweeping attacks and two “goals” from Okojie and Simon Johnson, but both fell foul of the offside flag, as Worthing rode their luck with a precariously high defensive line. Meanwhile Jesse Starkey, wearing 5 but popping up everywhere, was impressing for the Rebels, whose boss Adam Hinshelwood must have been pleased with the efforts of a team currently struggling in the quicksand at the bottom of the Bostik Premier.
With no breakthrough by half-time, the Sports opened the second half strongly, but their domination brought no reward. Okojie cracked one shot high over the bar and almost over the Mick Green Stand, and substitute Charlie Harris saw a shot charged down, but – not surprisingly perhaps, with new faces in the team – the Borough moves were short on cohesion and understanding.
At the River End, Mark Smith’s evening had grown so quiet that he might as well have brought out a book of Sudoku puzzles and a thermos flask – until suddenly, on a sweeping break, Wild’s 78th minute goal sent the visiting fans wild.
Sadly for them, the lead lasted a mere three minutes. Fittingly, Wills produced an immaculate defence-splitting pass to silence the serpents, and the impressive Okojie ran on and lifted an exquisite finish over advancing goalkeeper Lucas Covolan and into the net.
As the December chill and damp started to creep into the limbs of 169 hardy spectators, a moment of Covolan recklessness spared them extra time. Yemi Odubade collected a pass just inside the area, and as he flicked it on he was wiped out by the flailing Worthing keeper for a nailed-on penalty. Matt Drage stepped up, smacked it in and the cup tie was won and lost.