After surrendering a four goal lead in a second half horror show to draw 4-4 at Hailsham Town on Saturday, Hassocks continued where they had left off as poor opening 45 minutes paved the way for a first defeat in nine at home to Worthing United.
There was a big improvement after the break but the Robins were able to make just one of the plethora of chances they created stick on the scoreboard, Michael Death heading home with 10 minutes remaining of the 2-1 defeat.
They did manage to get the ball in the net a second time through a Josh Hawkes header but the goal was disallowed in controversial circumstances for an alleged elbow in the back of visiting captain Aaron Hassan as the midfielder rose to nod in.
The contact seemed minimal but referee Carl Smith found in the favour of the United defender much to Hassocks’ obvious frustration.
Frustration was very much the one word that did sum this clash up from a Hassocks point of view. They were two down inside the opening half hour, Aaron Tugnut opening the scoring with a tidy and controlled volley from a pinpoint cross before Alex Harris fumbled a free kick to allow Alfie Gritt to scramble home into the unguarded goal.
By that point they had already lost Nick Pitcher to a nasty dislocated shoulder which necessitated a visit from paramedics after he became the meat in a Harris and Paul Elliott sandwich and had seen Phil Gault hit a one-on-one straight at the legs of Fraser Trigwell, James Westlake put a decent chance wide and Melia miss the target with a free header.
All those opportunities came about thanks to United’s attempts at playing an offside trap which allowed chances for Death who saw his volley brilliantly repelled from point blank range by Trigwell and Gault who dragged an effort wide of the post when well placed.
Pitcher’s withdrawal had thrown the Hassocks defence into disarray and they were lucky not to be punished for their inability to do the basic task of marking on two occasions before the break, firstly when an effort fizzed inches wide and then when Harris did well to deny a free header from James Wotherspoon.
Phil Wickwar was pretty generous in his assessment after the game by giving the first half performance the relatively mild rating of “disappointing” but whatever he and Mark Dalgleish said at the beak clearly had the desired effect as Hassocks were much the better side in the second half until it came to the task of sticking the ball in the onion bag which was ultimately why they ended up with nothing to show for their efforts.
We’d be here all day listing every chance that the Robins failed to take as they set up camp in the visitors half but it was best summed up with twenty minutes to play when Hawkes’ goal bound effort from six yards was blocked on the line by the feet of Gault who was unable to foxtrot out of the way.
It was just when it looked like being one of those games where Hassocks could have played for a fortnight and not managed to score that Death popped up with his goal to give renewed hope and inbetween that and the effort that was disallowed, Hawkes had a glorious chance when he rode a couple of tackles on a powerful run but he nudged his effort the wrong side of the post.
With United desperately hanging on after Death’s goal, the game became a scrappy affair full of niggly fouls which gave Hassocks a number of set piece scenarios in the closing ten minutes, none of which they were able to make hay with.
“We missed a lot of chances and had a goal disallowed for I’m still not sure what,” were Wickwar’s other comments after the game. “That is the way it goes sometimes but I’m sure we will get a good response on Saturday.”
Hassocks: Harris; Tighe, Marsh, Pitcher, Akehurst; Bant, Hawkes, Westlake, Melia; Gault, Death.
Subs: Wallis (Pitcher), Hillwood (Bant), Wilkins (Melia), Price, Brown (unused).
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