Eastbourne Town 0, Hassocks 0: Magnificent display as Hassocks hold leaders

Phil Wickwar and Mark Dalgleish. Hassocks v Arundel. Picture by Phil Westlake
Phil Wickwar and Mark Dalgleish. Hassocks v Arundel. Picture by Phil Westlake

Hassocks had waited 18 months for a 0-0 draw and then, like the proverbial London Bus, two came along at once.

But if the weekend’s stalemate with Arundel was one that was easily forgettable and a chore to sit through, this point from league leaders Eastbourne Town represented a magnificent rearguard display from the Robins.

“An unreal effort bearing in mind we are running on empty,” was how Phil Wickwar described it afterwards in a glowing apraisal of his sides defensive fortitude as Hassocks became just the second team this season to record a league shutout against a Town side who have already plundered 92 Premier Division goals.

As for running on empty, the Robins are suffering a real crisis of injuries and availability as a run of six games in 21 days takes its toll and they handed a first start of the season to Liam Benson and had a bench featuring just three players - joint boss Wickwar and youngsters Jack Tobias and Michael McCormick who have a grand total of zero minutes of senior football between them.

Benson completing the 90 minutes was all the more remarkable given that he had played a full game just 24 hours previously for Hassocks’ Under 21 side in their 4-1 win over St Francis Rangers.

That sort of attitude and work ethic was present across the pitch as a disciplined and well drilled Robins side repelled everything that their illustrious hosts could throw at them.

They put their bodies on the line for the cause, none more so than Phil Gault who received a horrific gash on his leg that looked more like a bullet wound than a footballing injury for his troubles - and yet in another example of Hassocks attitude on the night, he too saw out the game.

The first 45 saw Hassocks defending the slope and the wind which left them largely pegged back in their own half but they managed to restrict Town to just a couple of half chances while never really threatening at the other end.

In the second half it became more of an open affair as the Robins at least began to half resemble an attacking force with conditions in their favour but it was largely defensively where they excelled with blocks on everything to the point where Alex Harris probably had a quieter game than he did in the Arundel draw.

This represented a second consecutive clean sheet for the young Hassocks goalkeeper, taking his record to eight in 17 games since returning to the club in November from Metropolitan Police which has gone a long way towards the Robins recent improvement in form.

And although this made it three games without a goal for the Robins - the first time that has happened since August 2012 - as long as they continue to defend like this then they will win more points than they lose in the final seven games of what has been a hugely encouraging second half of the season.

Hassocks: Harris; Tighe, Marsh, Wallis, Akehurst; Benson, Westlake, Barnes, Wilkins; Death, Gault.

Subs: J Tobias, McCormick, P Wickwar (unused).

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