History was made at the Beacon as Hassocks defeated Horsham YMCA 1-0 to win for the eighth consecutive game in senior football for the first time in the club’s 114 year existence.
Phil Gault’s beautiful 19th minute header from a trademark James Westlake delivery decided the tie, played in a howling gale which meant chances were at a premium as a dogged defensive performance from Hassocks saw them never give their promotion pushing opponents an inch to secure the three points and spark wild celebrations at full time.
That’s two promotion teams (YMCA and Newhaven) we have beaten in our last two games which just goes to show that when 14 lads play for the shirt you can achieve amazing thingsPhil Wickwar
See Phil Westlake’s slideshow of pictures from the game here
If the Oxford English Dictionary are looking to simplify their definition of “backs to the wall performance” anytime soon then they could do a lot worse than simply say “Hassocks 1-0 Horsham YMCA” as this was the epitome of the term.
The back four of Bradley Tighe, Ashley Marsh, Nick Pitcher and man-of-the-match Luke Akehurst were excellent in particular; the former three each clearing an effort off the line over the course of the 90 minutes to secure one of the Robins’ hardest earned clean sheets in recent memory.
YM had the wind to their advantage attacking the railway end in the first half but while their neat approach play was pleasing on the eye, they seemed more content to stroke the ball around than let fly any efforts to seriously test Alex Harris in what were horrific conditions for a goalkeeper.
Captain Ash Dugdale headed a good opportunity wide from a Dan Evans cross inside the opening five minutes with what was the only chance of note before Gault’s opener just before the 20 minute mark.
Gault had been feeling very under the weather in the run up to the game but Hassocks’ decision to risk starting their talismanic striker against one of his former clubs was richly vindicated when he leapt like the proverbial salmon to flick home a pinpoint corner from Westlake, earned after a scampering left wing run from Jonno Melia.
The visitors had two chances on the stroke of half time to get back into the game, Nick Sullivan foxtrotting his way around four defenders before seeing his shot beat Harris but repelled by the covering Tighe and then former Hassocks favourite Anthony Hibbert beat the advancing Harris to a punt over the top from Dugdale but his lobbed effort fell just the wrong side of the post.
Michael Death had a great chance to double the advantage five minutes after the restart but he curled over from the edge of the box and that was really it in terms of Hassocks as an attacking force.
YM did get the ball in the back of the net when Marsh’s questionable header caused a world of problems as it looped over Harris but Dean Wright couldn’t jam the ball home without first bundling the young goalkeeper over with the result being a foul awarded against the visiting forward - the lack of appeal against the decision telling that referee John Walker had got it right.
Substitute Martin Smith was next to crash into the young Robins stopper and he lacked the sensibility of Wright in failing to realise he’d committed the foul, appearing to be extremely miffed at not being awarded a penalty with the result being him pushing Marsh to the ground while swinging his handbag around in frustration for which a yellow card was the punishment.
It was bodies on the line and hearts in mouth stuff in the last ten minutes. Jamie Hillwood and Josh Hawkes both threw themselves in the way of goal bound efforts, Harris went full stretch to palm away a Sam Schaff volley and then gathered bravely as Smith ploughed towards him like a train with a brakes failure.
It got even more nervey in stoppage time as those other two aforementioned last gasp hacks off the line from Marsh and Pitcher followed, the latter of whom was totally nonplussed by the tension in the air as he managed to throw in a series of keepy ups alongside his clearance.
“That’s two promotion teams (YMCA and Newhaven) we have beaten in our last two games which just goes to show that when 14 lads play for the shirt you can achieve amazing things,” Phil Wickwar said after the game.
“They deserve all the credit they get for what they have done over the last eight games.” The history books will agree.
Hassocks: Harris; Tighe, Marsh, Pitcher, Akehurst; Bant, Hawkes, Westlake, Melia; Death, Gault.
Subs: Hillwood (Gault), Brown (Death), Barnes (Akehurst), Wilkins, P Wickwar (unused).
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