Eastbourne United 1, Hassocks 2: Robins make it seven wins from 10

Phil Gault scores the 83rd minute winner. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Phil Gault scores the 83rd minute winner. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

It may have been a stop-start season for Hassocks but they are certainly finishing with a flourish as they made it seven wins from their last 10 games with a 2-1 success at Eastbourne United Association.

That form is impressive enough. It becomes even more so when you consider that United were the third side from the top six that the Robins have claimed the scalp of during the run.

Players celebrate Gault's winner. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

Players celebrate Gault's winner. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

It was a difficult afternoon at the Oval for both sides. The pitch was hard, bouncy and uneven as surfaces tend to be at this late stage in a particularly dry season and that made playing good football a tremendous challenge.

The first half was in truth desperately poor fare. Neither James Broadbent or his opposite number Phil Hawkins had a safe to make as defences dominated and a strong wind along with the aforementioned pitch ensured that nobody was particularly disappointed when the whistle came for half time.

The second half was an instant improvement although it admittedly would have been hard for things to get any more barren in terms of quality.

Hassocks got on top early on and they were rewarded for the pressure they exerted on Hawkins' goal when Liam Benson gave them the lead just past the hour mark.

There was an element of fortune about the goal coming as it did via a deflection but nonetheless the young striker showed great technique to get a crisp volley away for his ninth goal of what is becoming an increasingly impressive maiden season as a regular in the Robins first team squad.

At that stage in proceedings it looked as though Hassocks would go on and claim an easy victory, United playing nothing like a side who entered the game in sixth place and Phil Gault went close to doubling the advantage with an audacious volley.

But Hassocks can be their own worst enemy at times when it comes to defending and so it proved again here, Tom Barnes' rash and needless challenge leaving Mr Barnes no option but to point to the spot.

Broadbent has garnered a reputation as a penalty saving expert over the course of the season having stopped four already and he nearly added a fifth to his collection, being just inches away from keeping out Dan Steven's kick with his legs after he had already set off with a dive in what was the wrong direction.

After that the game reverted to its first half persona and it looked as though things would peter out into a draw until Gault produced the one moment of real quality that the 90 minutes ended up offering with five left on the clock.

Jack Rowe-Hurst was the architect as he received the ball out on the left and played a stunning lofted ball between the United centre back pairing of Max Holloborne and Shaun Lee.

Gault had spotted the gap and he was on his way through it when the ball dropped directly onto his ever dangerous right foot which needed no second invitation to hit a thumping first past volley into the bottom corner.

"Quite, quite brilliant," was how Phil Wickwar described that moment of magic for his team and he also expressed delight at picking up a first away win since November.

"We've been great at home lately but no so good away so to come to a side in the top six and get three points in difficult conditions is very pleasing."

Coupled with AFC Uckfield Town's 3-1 defeat at home to Newhaven, it also means that the Robins are mathematically safe from relegation and can look forward to a 26th season of Premier Division football.

Hassocks: Broadbent; Tighe, Barnes, Akehurst, Bant; L Westlake, Mills, Rowe-Hurst; Gault; Benson, C Pitcher.

Subs: Wilkins, Death (used), Marsh, J Westlake, B John (unused).