THREE goals in the last five minutes of the first half took Wick & Barnham United Football Club to victory away to Worthing United on Tuesday evening.
A double from Dan Simmonds and a strike from Daren Pearce gave Wick a 3-0 half-time lead and they appeared to be easing to victory until the hosts scored twice in quick succession with just a couple of minutes to play. Despite United forcing a couple of late corners, Wick held on for a 3-2 win to move eight points clear of the Southern Combination League Premier Division relegation zone.
Wick keeper Billy Nash denied Wayne Joseph and then Alfie Gritt early on, before the visitors began to take control.
They had two penalty appeals waved away in as many minutes midway through the first half. First, Simmonds went down under a Grant Philpott challenge, with the United defender perhaps lucky that referee Richard Sargeant did not point to the spot.
Moments later, Ash Harper appeared to slip as he turned Ben Hall and again Wick’s appeals were waved away.
Ben Gray and Simmonds had efforts comfortably saved by Mavericks keeper Fraser Trigwell, before it was third time lucky for Wick when they were awarded a penalty on 40 minutes.
Playle-Howard’s ball over the top of the Mavericks defence released Simmonds, whose goalbound shot hit Philpott’s hand. Philpott was booked for the incident and Simmonds fired home the spot-kick for his first Wick goal since joining from Pagham earlier this month.
Just four minutes later, it was 2-0 as Simmonds raced on to Ash Harper’s flick and side-footed past Trigwell.
A disastrous few minutes for United was completed in first-half injury-time when Trigwell’s clearance was blocked by Simmonds, who was then denied by the Mavericks keeper as he shot.
But as the ball looped into the air, Pearce was first to react and volleyed home from ten yards.
Chances were few and far between in the second period, although Wick were denied a fourth by the offside flag when Matt Noble turned home Simmonds’ pass.
United got a goal back on 85 minutes when Owen Callaghan headed home a right-wing cross and it was 3-2 just two minutes later. Aaron Tugnutt was tripped in the penalty area and Paul Elliott scored from the spot.
The Mavericks threw men forward in the hunt for an equaliser but Wick held on to record their first victory since November.
Wick joint manager Richard Towers said: “We’re very pleased with the three points but we’re disappointed with the last ten minutes and a lot of the second half.
“We should have killed the game off earlier but we were wasteful in front of goal in the second half. For all the domination we had in the first period, it’s disappointing we made it hard work for ourselves. However, it’s a massive three points and it opens up a gap on the third-from-bottom side.”
United boss Nigel Geary said: “We were awful in the first half and it wasn’t good enough. We’ve got another big game at home to Shoreham on Saturday and our home form has got to improve.”
UNITED: Trigwell; Marsh, Hasan, Philpott, Hall; Joseph, Rose, Callaghan, Taylor, P.Elliott; Gritt. Subs: Nagle (Taylor 58), Wotherspoon (Gritt 67), Tugnutt (Joseph 75), Blundell, Evans.
WICK: Nash; Playle-Howard, Madden, D.Towers, MacIver; Chick, Noble, Pearce, Gray; Harper, Simmonds. Subs: Desport (Harper 73), Dunlop (MacIver 80), Eyres (Chick 83), Menzies, Tucker.
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