Mackerel Men win a seven goal thriller
match report by Rupert Cane
This was a veritable Isthmian classic, from first to last. There have been many great Kingstonian games since Hayden Bird took over, but in the league, at least, none have come close to this. It is only a shame Kingstonian’s efforts yielded no tangible reward, although Bird will take plenty from his side’s showing, particularly after the interval.
Worthing, twice league leaders in the Covid era when the season was stopped, selected nine of the 10 outfielders who started the same fixture almost exactly a year ago.
They comfortably won 4-0 that day, but under the King George’s Field lights on a pleasant autumnal evening, it was a different story.
The pace of the game was unrelenting from the off. Worthing, committed to playing out from the back, were especially impressive in the final third, moving the ball at a pace rarely seen at this level. K’s too were threatening, seeking to exploit the space behind the Rebels’ high line, although a killer final pass brought our promising early attacks to a halt.
In the 20th minute, a slick Worthing move ended with Oliver Pearce coolly finishing past Rob Tolfrey. Heads might have dropped, but not for the first time in an action-packed 90 minutes, K’s dug deep and equalised, Declan Skura heading in a corner with a well-guided near-post glancer.
Rhys Murrell-Williamson fired wide from the edge of the box and Daniel Ajakaiye rushed his strike from nearer in after K’s pressed to good effect.
But two more Pearce goals as half-time approached threatened to put the game beyond us. They arrived in frustratingly similar fashion, as crosses from the left flank were allowed to travel deep into our box for the predatory Pearce to convert from close range.
Worthing could even have nabbed a fourth in first-half stoppage time, but as it was we trailed by two. Not for long.
With the introduction of Aaron Lamont and Juevan Spencer, K’s came out all guns blazing. Lamont fizzed a 20-yard strike against the crossbar within a minute of the restart, with Ajakaiye prodding the rebound wide.
But our second goal did arrive in the 48th minute, as K’s again pounced on Worthing playing out from the back, and this time to good effect.
Lamont was the beneficiary and his wonderfully weighted cross from the byline was volleyed in from a couple of yards out by Murrell-Williamson.
Immediately Tolfrey had to be alert to keep it at 3-2, but then K’s laid siege to the Rebels’ goal, refusing to go away until they had equalised.
A corner nearly found its way all the way in, Murrell-Williamson slipped when primed to shoot, Gus Sow opted not to shoot at all, and then Kershaney Samuels nearly found the bottom corner from range.
It was coming. And it did, midway through the half. Samuels whipped over a free-kick and there was an unmarked Bryant Akono Bilongo to accurately steer his header into the bottom left-hand corner.
It proved Worthing’s lightbulb moment. They came to the fore again and retook the lead with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Sadly for a game of such high quality what proved the winner stemmed from two individual errors, as first Bilongo conceded an unnecessary free-kick near the corner flag, and then Tolfrey came and missed his punch trying to clear Jesse Starkey’s delivery. It went all the way in.
A grandstand finish beckoned but a third equaliser proved beyond the K’s, who had given it all against the title favourites but come up agonisingly short.
Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Simon Cooper, Bryant Akono Bilongo, Declan Skura, Ollie Cook, Teo Kurtaran, Kershaney Samuels, Gus Sow, Daniel Ajakaiye, Nyren Clunis, Rhys Murrell-Williamson.
Subs: Aaron Lamont (for Teo Kurtaran, HT), Juevan Spencer (for Simon Cooper, HT), Lewis Pearch (for Rhys Murrell-Williamson, 85m), Jay Barton, Jonathon Gjoshe.
Worthing: Harrison Male, Joel Colbran, Cam Tutt, Danny Barker, Aarran Racine, Marvin Armstrong, Dayshonne Golding, Ollie Pearce, Jesse Starkey, Reece Myles-Meekums, Jasper Pattenden.
Subs: Luca Cocoracchio (for Reece Myles-Meekums, 57m), Dean Cox, Will Seager (for Danny Barker, 78m), Ollie Starkey, Mo Diallo (for Ollie Pearce, 82m).
Goal scorers: Ollie Pearce (19m, 0-1), Declan Skura (26m, 1-1), Ollie Pearce (35m, 1-2), Ollie Pearce (44m, 1-3), Rhys Murrell-Williamson (48m, 2-3), Bryant Akono Bilongo (67m, 3-3), Jesse Starkey (75m, 3-4)