Are Worthing equipped for promotion?
Background image: Martin Addison, CC-by-SA/2.0
With 16 games remaining in their Isthmian Premier campaign, Worthing's position is such that winning the title and promotion to the National League South are a distinct possibility.
The Mackerel Men are five points clear of their nearest challengers after an astonishing 17-match unbeaten run. Worthing last tasted defeat in early October. Just three league defeats in 26 games is a fantastic return for the work put in by Adam Hinshelwood's men.
Two loan signings are key to Worthing's success. A pair of young Brighton & Hove Albion keepers, Roco Rees and Carl Rushworth proved able stoppers behind an experienced backline. Rushworth was handed the number one shirt but Rees deputised admirably when his fellow 18-year-old went down with an injury.
In front of them, Alfie Young  and Joel Colbran  are experienced players at this level. Hinshelwood can also call on Aarran Racine, the ex-Football League player with Forest Green. His composure can settle the Rebels when the bullets start to fly.
The central midfield pairing, Jesse Starkey and Ricky Aguiar, again young in age but highly experienced, provide guile, drive and goals in abundance. As he does in the backline, Hinshelwood can balance them with an older head in Darren Budd. Like Racine, the well-travelled 35-year-old plays a simple game and can cool the most heated situation.
The manager enjoys depth up and down the lineup. Whoever he deploys in a forward role seems to find the net. Ollie Pearce leads the way with 11 league goals. Even though Lloyd Dawes can't seem to shake the injury bug this campaign the 25-year-old still contributes six goals. Aussie Callum Kealy missed the early matches due to family reasons but returned to pot four for the side.
Obviously, Hinshelwood is not afraid to play the youngsters. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough suits the young manager to a tee. This term, U18 stars Finn Stevens and Dylan Jelley joined Jasper Pattenden who was promoted in 2018/19. The teenagers are making their mark. After returning from his own injury, Pattenden figures strongly in the first team.
There is always room for a fresh face. Even if it is a problem when they're snatched up, Hinshelwood deserves credit for developing players to the point they are noticed by larger clubs. Kwame Poku signing in the summer for League Two Colchester United while Lucas Covolan and David Ajiboye now ply their trade in the National League, further proof that you can drop down levels and still be noticed.
Skipper Alex Parsons is the driving force in the squad. Enjoying his best season in Worthing red, Parsons puts in strong shifts week after week. When he's not at Woodside Road, he still makes an impact. The 27-year-old serves as Southampton striker Danny Ings' personal trainer.
Worthing clearly have the ingredients to finish as champions and momentum is clearly with the West Sussex outfit. It's been quite the turnaround. Hinshelwood rescued the club from certain relegation two years ago. Not one to rest on his laurels, he stands to deliver the club's dream of National League football well inside their five-year plan.