In a bid for a record breaking ninth successive league victory, Hassocks fell foul to one of the oldest footballing cliches of them all - a game of two halves - as they surrendered a 4-0 half time lead as Hailsham produced an incredible second half fightback to earn a share of the spoils in a crazy 4-4 draw at The Beaconsfield.
Phil Gault’s first half hat-trick and Bradley Bant’s free kick had put the Robins on easy street in a dominant first half display but defending the wind in the second period proved too much for Hassocks and they succumbed to two goals inside the final five minutes to relinquish their winning run of wins at eight.
A horrendous playing surface that cut up almostimeediately after kick off and on which players were unable to grip underfoot or have a decent first touch made for an entertaining afternoon for spectators and coupled with a gale force wind, defences were exposed and their were mistakes aplenty on show.
In fact it was fair to say that in both halves, such was the dominance of the team kicking with that wind that Alex Harris in the first half and home goal keeper Sheldon Levett in the second period did not have a save to make.
Jonno Melia had already forced a fine double save from Levett inside the opening 10 minutes and Bant had hit the outside of the post with an inswinging corner before Gault gave the Robins on 16 minutes, outpacing and outmuscling Simon Piper to slot past the advancing Levett.
Almost immediately the lead was doubled, Gault capitalising on a mix up at the heart of the Hailsham defence to fire home from the edge of the box.
Melia then had an effort scrambled off the line, Michael Death’s 20 yard strike fizzed past the post and James Westlake’s corner then smashed against the upright as Hassocks’s dominance continued.
It was 3-0 on 32 minutes, Bant’s free kick from wide on the right catching the wind and eluding the flailing Levett and end up in the back of the net and then Gault completed his hat-trick heading home unchallenged from Westlake’s pinpoint delivery from a corner on 40 minutes.
As players and supporters headed for their half time cuppa, no one could have envisaged the drama that was to follow and the total turn around that ensued.
From the kick off, Hailsham were a different team, no doubt having had a dressing down at half time and they pulled a goal back on 52 minutes, Tristan Jarvis’s corner going in direct at the far post having again caught the wind and eluding Harris in the Robins goal.
Sam Divall then fired over from the angle and Harris tipped over a Danny Leach effort as Hassocks were forced on the back foot, struggling to get out of their own half, as the resurgent home side piled forward.
A fine move involving Harry Mills, Marcus Goldsmith and Leach resulted with the prolific Leach finding space and finding the far corner to reduce the deficit to 4-2.
The Hailsham faithful were now sensing a monumental comeback and started to get behind their team, Hassocks scrambling clear on several occasions, desperately defending deeper and deeper and unable to maintain any possession.
There were bookings for Death, Gault and Ashley Marsh as frustrations boiled over and on 85 minutes Hailsham made it 4-3, Leach’s shot somehow creeping over the line after Harris had tipped up the initial effort.
The incredible comeback was completed on 88 minutes, Emmanuel Okinja poking home after an almighty scramble from a corner, with Hassocks appealing in vain for an offside flag which never came.
So ended Hassocks’s run of eight successive wins in crazy and extraordinary circumstances but they remain unbeaten since before Christmas and are looking up the table, rather than over their shoulder, in what has been an amazing sequence of wins and this is a credit to the hard work and belief both management and players have put in.
Hassocks: Harris, Tighe (Barnes 45), Akehurst, Marsh, Pitcher, Westlake, Bant (Wilkins 80), Brown, Death, Gault, Melia
Subs: Barnes (Tighe 45), Wilkins (Bant 80), Hawkes, Wallis, P Wickwar (unused).
Middy Starman: The team faded alarmingly in the 2nd half and were second best all over the pitch, but young George Brown showed enough good touches and poise in the middle of the park to catch the eye in the first half.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!