Hassocks 0, Haywards Heath Town 2: Bumper crowd sees Easter Monday's Mid Sussex derby

Trevor McCreadie holds the ball up. Hassocks v Haywards Heath. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj
Trevor McCreadie holds the ball up. Hassocks v Haywards Heath. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

A bumper crowd packed out the Beacon for only the second Mid Sussex Derby between Hassocks and Haywards Heath in 25 years.

And they may well have seen the Premier Division's eventual champions in action as Heath took a huge step towards securing their first Southern Combination League title since 1970 thanks to a 2-0 victory.

Nathan Cooper heads the ball on. Hassocks v Haywards Heath. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Nathan Cooper heads the ball on. Hassocks v Haywards Heath. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Heath have long been on the tail of Shoreham, doggedly stalking their prey all season. They finally overtook the Mussels on Saturday, a result of the combination of Shaun Saunders' sides victory over Eastbourne Town and Shoreham's shock home reversal to Horsham YMCA.

Just under 48 hours later and they maintained their new-found one point advantage at the top thanks to a Jamie Weston double against his former club. With just two games remaining, the title is now Heath's to lose.

Should they finish the season at the top of the pile, then Hassocks themselves will have played a small yet significant part in their local rivals success.

They became only the third team to defeat Shoreham this season when dishing out a 4-1 hammering back in February, since when the Robins have become one of the form sides in the league putting together a run that included six straight home victories prior to this Easter Monday morning.

So here were two sides seemingly at the peak of their seasons powers meeting with much more than local pride at stake.

It had all the ingredients for a classic and by and large it lived up to those expectations as both sides put on an entertaining encounter with plenty of attacking intent.

In Weston, Heath had the games outstanding player. It was a spell binding performance as the man known as The Wizard showed why he has a magical moniker.

Weston fashioned the first real chance of the game, sending a cross towards the giant figure of Melford Simpson who's downwards header was swept weakly into the arms of James Broadbent via a Karl Akehurst volley and he then hit an effort just over after some tricky footwork bamboozled both Bradley Tighe and Luke Akehurst.

Hassocks looked most dangerous from set pieces, one Lewis Westlake delivery in particular leading Simon Lehkyj to have a right flap up with only Nathan Cooper's header off the line preventing the Robins from taking the lead.

Gault then dinked a ball towards the far post after another Westlake delivery caused problems but it was agonisingly out of reach of Charlie Pitcher and Simpson nipped past Broadbent only to see the covering Akehurst make a last ditch tackle to prevent what could have been an open goal.

The opener arrived on 23 minutes and as outstanding as Weston was throughout the game, there was certainly an element of luck to it.

Naim Rouane floated a ball into the box which Simpson again knocked down. The onrushing Weston sprinted past Akehurst and met the lose ball with a left footed effort which hit the bar, rebounding straight into the back of the head of the hapless Broadbent and over the line despite the goalkeepers best efforts to clear it away.

Hassocks' best chance of the half came straight off the training ground. A short corner routine caught Heath completely unawares, Tighe making a run from deep to the edge of the box where he was allowed to send the ball goalwards towards Gault who saw his cushioned header rattle the bar.

It was a pretty one sided affair in the opening exchanges of the second half, Hassocks doing all the pressing and pushing with Pitcher looking a real threat in particular.

Substitute Dan Stokes was only inches wide with a pea roller from a Gault cutback and Westlake sent in another free kick which nobody could connect with.

At the other end, Simpson again won a towering header but it was superbly repelled by Broadbent. The Heath striker was proving a real handful, Gault even resorting to the unusual technique of pulling down his shorts as Hassocks defended a corner much to the disgruntlement of the travelling support who's claim to having captured it on film led some to believe that the Robins record scorer might be looking for a career in the adult entertainment industry once his footballing days are over.

Simpson was having none of that nonsense however and from the very same delivery put Jordan Badger into a chicken wing chokehold which led to some unseemly handbags and shortly after the big striker bought a free kick down expertly only to be denied by the feet of Broadbent.

It was another coming together between Simpson and Badger that led to Heath's second. A pumped ball into the box saw the pair tangle with Simpson again showing some good wrestling knowledge as he appeared to take down his adversary with a knee to the back of the leg.

Robins boss Phil Wickwar said afterwards that he felt it was a certain foul and he may have had a point but that wasn't a view shared by the otherwise excellent referee Ciaran Fidler and with no whistle forthcoming, Akehurst collected the loose ball and rolled it back to the onrushing Weston who made no mistake with his finish.

That was against the run of play but for all Hassocks' possession and pressure they never really tested the underworked Lehkyj. In fact, it was Heath who had the clearer chances late on with Broadbent making a fine one-on-one stop from Kane Louis and Tom Barnes making a solid block when substitute Trevor McCreadie went through at the death.

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

Subs: J Westlake, Death, Stokes (used), Price, B John (unused).

Haywards Heath: Lehkyj; Doherty, Cooper, Spinks, B Rogers; Miller, Akehurst, Rouane, Weston; Louis, Simpson.

Subs: McCreadie, Hayward, Daly (used), Kutaa, Evento (unused).