Elphick: We’ve got to fight tooth and nail for play-offs

Rebels are unable to keep out Walton Casuals winning goal on Monday
Rebels are unable to keep out Walton Casuals winning goal on Monday

Worthing Football Club joint boss Gary Elphick admits the pressure is now on his side as they bid to seal a Ryman League South Division play-off place.

Rebels drew 2-2 at Dorking Wanderers on Saturday, before a 2-1 defeat at home to Walton Casuals on Monday saw them drop to fifth in the table – two points ahead of Hastings, who are just outside of the play-off places.

Worthing’s winless run is now three games and Elphick said: “The pressure is on us now. We’ve created that and have put ourselves in this position, so it’s up to us to get ourselves out of it.

“We’ve got to fight tooth and nail to get in the play-offs. That’s the way we’re looking at it. We’re the team out of form as others are picking up, so we’ve got a lot of work to do on the training ground.”

Elphick was critical of his team’s performance in the defeat to Casuals. Rebels were against a strong wind in the first half and trailed 2-1 at half-time.

The visitors had Rhys Paul sent off with ten minutes left and Rebels then bombarded the Casuals goal but were unable to find an equaliser.

Elphick said: “We were poor and gave ourselves a mountain to climb in the first half. They bullied us and we didn’t play sensible football. Although we were a lot better in the second half, the pressure was off as we had to push forward then.

“It was the first real moan I’d had at the players for a long time and this is now the acid test to see if we get a reaction.

“We had to say a couple of home truths and the players have got to look at themselves in the mirror and think how they can improve. I don’t want it falling on deaf ears.

“There were certain things in the game that were abysmal and we’ve got to iron it out, otherwise we won’t be a play-off side.”

Rebels took a fifth-minute lead when Ben Pope headed in a lovely Ira Jackson cross, but the hosts continually lost possession too easily during the first half. Casuals had already threatened to score before they equalised on 20 minutes when Scott Day powerfully headed home.

The visitors’ Jake Nicholson saw a free kick clip a post before Quincy Rowe nodded home from a matter of inches after Paul’s header hit the bar in the last minute of the first half to make it 2-1.

Paul, already booked for trying to punch the ball into the goal, got a second yellow card for a foul on 79 minutes and Rebels then bombarded the Casuals goal.

Brannon O’Neill had a penalty appeal waved away, Pope had an effort pushed round the post by Brannon Daly and Ryan Quirke, Steve Metcalf and Pope all went close in quick succession.

Will Hendon then had a low shot deflected just wide, before Casuals survived an injury-time corner with Rebels keeper Rikki Banks up in the penalty area as well.

Rebels travel to Whyteleafe on Saturday and are then at South Park on Wednesday.

Elphick said: “Hopefully Lloyd Dawes (quad injury) will be back for Saturday as he’s been a big miss and Omar Bugiel comes back in on Wednesday. We’re also looking to bring players in to shake up the dressing room a little bit for Saturday.”

WORTHING: Banks; Metcalf, Elphick, Heath; Hendon, O’Neill, Axell, Quirke, Sparks; Jackson, Pope. Subs: Newton (Jackson 72), Edwards (Axell 81), Piper, Watson, Fagan. Att: 527.

Rebels’ appreciation evening for Matt Hurley is tonight in the club bar from 8pm. The boys of 1982, Barry Lloyd, Keith Rowley and Geoff Raynsford, will be in attendance to tell stories and take part in a Q&A session. Call Worthing on 01903 239575 for details.

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