Crawley Down Gatwick 3, Hassocks 0: Robins fail to reach semi finals of a cup again

Harry Mills in action for Hassocks against CDG. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Harry Mills in action for Hassocks against CDG. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

In their 124 year history, Hassocks have only ever made it to the semi final of a senior cup competition on four occasions.

And that barren run was extended as they failed to convert any of their numerous opportunities before being hit by three goals late on in an RUR Charity Cup quarter final defeat at Crawley Down Gatwick.

The Peter Bentley League Cup of 1997 and this competition in 1994, 2000 and 2012 were those four times Hassocks have managed to get within a game of a first ever final at senior level.

They won't have had many better opportunities that this, on paper a relatively kind draw against fellow Premier Division strugglers who they defeated 6-4 in a crazy encounter only 17 days ago.

The victory that day and the half dozen goals that flew in from the Robins was largely inspired by a brilliant performance from the front line of Jamie Hillwood, Phil Gault and Nathan Miles.

Hillwood and Miles were absent for this one while Gault climbed off his sickbed but was only well enough to take a place on the bench, eventually appearing as a used substitute for only the sixth time in 304 games for the club.

But not even the arrival on the pitch of their talismanic forward could turn the tide for Hassocks, who named only one recognised striker in their starting 11 in Ben Bacon with Mark Price returning to the side to take up a number 10 role.

Those who arrived at a cold Haven ground expecting similar excitement to that last meeting of these two were left bitterly disappointed in the first half as the sides entered the changing rooms locked at 0-0.

That really should not have been the case however. Hassocks had five chances to take the lead and these weren't half chances either.

Even in a natural disaster, Robins boss Phil Wickwar would be able to accentuate the positives but even he was at a loss here to put any gloss on it, describing the opportunities as "golden" while struggling to hide his frustration.

"When you are on top, you've got to take your chances. It's as simple as that. We didn't, they did. They are in a big semi, we are not."

The second half was more of an even affair and it looked as though extra time may be needed right up until Down took the lead with 15 minutes remaining.

It was that old scourge of Hassocks, the set piece which reared it's ugly head again. This time it was a corner delivered deep from which Marc Pelling rose unchallenged to head home.

The Robins had to go for it after that and their attempts to force the issue opened up the chance for Down to add two more in the final five minutes and some gloss to the scoreline.

The first of those came via a wonder strike from Mike Spence after he was teed up by substitute Oli Leslie and the scoring was rounded of when James Broadbent made a rare error, spilling a Dan Sullivan free kick which was gleefully mopped up by Sam Cane.

Hassocks: Broadbent; Akehurst, Marsh, Badger, Bant; Mills; J Westlake, L Westlake, Hawkes; Price; Bacon.

Subs: Gault, Benson, Tighe (used), Barnes, John (unused).

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