Worthing Football Club sealed their Ryman League Premier Division status following a last-gasp draw with rivals Burgess Hill on Easter Monday.
It was a game lacking in quality but Jack Newhouse came off the bench to snatch a 1-1 draw for Worthing at Woodside Road.
Newhouse’s late strike was Worthing’s first at home in the league for 565 minutes of play to leave them five-points clear of fourth-bottom Hillians in the final relegation spot with just a game to go.
Worthing manager Gary Elphick was less than impressed with the way his side performed in what was their final home league match of the campaign.
He said: “I actually felt a bit sorry for Burgess Hill as they deserved the three points in my view.
“I wasn’t happy with our performance but we showed a bit of spirit to grab an equaliser at the end.
“I thought we started well but after 20 minutes we took our foot off-the-gas and allowed them far too many opportunities. However, we’ve stayed up and this summer is going to be crucial for us as we look to recruit effectively and build for what will be our second season at this level.”
The hosts got out of the blocks quicker than Hillians with Lloyd Dawes shooting over from 20 yards after 12 minutes, then Harvey Sparks curled an effort into James Shaw’s arms from the right-hand corner of the box eight minutes later.
Burgess Hill began to get a foothold in the game and had their first, if a little tame, shot on the half-hour as Jack Brivio’s 35-yard strike was easily gathered by Kieran Thorp.
The best chance of the half fell to Hillians’ Tyrell Richardson-Brown eight minutes before the break. The forward beat the offside trap, latched onto a Aaron Smith-Joseph pass, but flashed a volley just wide.
Richardson-Brown made up for his earlier miss, firing Burgess Hill ahead just after the hour.
Lively substitute Lee Harding broke down the right and crossed for Richardson-Brown to tap home from two yards.
Hillians could and probably should have doubled their lead after 72 minutes. Aaron Smith-Joseph’s cross found right-back Ibrahim Diallo unmarked at the back post, only for Thorp to spread himself and stop his shot.
Burgess Hill withstood all Worthing had to throw at them, up until four minutes into second half stoppage-time.
Substitute Ben Pope’s long-throw was not dealt with by the defence, then another substitute Newhouse, found himself free at the back post to slot home a late, late leveller.
Worthing make the trip to eighth-placed Tonbridge Angels for their final game of the season on Saturday.
Skipper Kane Wills has committed his future to Worthing.
Wills put pen to paper on an extension to his current contract, meaning he will remain at the club until the end of the 2017/18 season at least.
WORTHING: Thorp; Hendon, Cook, Cadman, Rents; Clark, Wills, O’Neill, Sparks; Herbert, Summers. Subs: Pope (Herbert, 62), Newhouse (Clark, 71), Hallard, Boiling, Belward.
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