Hassocks 5, Lancing 3: Fifth straight home win for Robins in eight-goal thriller

Lewis Westlake.
Lewis Westlake.

There were eight goals from eight different players as Hassocks won for the fifth consecutive home game with a 5-3 triumph over Lancing.

Charlie Pitcher, Phil Gault, Lewis Westlake, Luke Akehurst and Michael Death were all on target for the Robins with the visitors replies coming from Alex Fair, Will Berry and Elliot Finney in a breathless 90 minutes that never ceased to ebb and flow.

It was quite the baptism of fire for Hassocks youth team goalkeeper Ben John. With James Broadbent taken ill on the morning of the game, the 16-year-old son of the club's legendary 1990s keeper Paul John was thrown in for his debut at the 11th hour.

Lancing naturally targeted John as much as possible but he proved equal to virtually everything they could throw at him on the way to securing the supporters man-of-the-match vote, one second half save from point blank range in particular suggesting that the Robins may have unearthed the latest in a long line of talented goalkeepers to come out of their youth system.

The tone for the chaotic nature of the game was set straight from kick off. Lancing went ahead on their first foray into Hassocks territory when Fair scored with a free header with four minutes played. Pitcher had already struck a post by that point with a header from a Bradley Bant delivery.

The young striker wouldn't be denied his first goal for the club on his home debut for long however as he netted an equaliser just 90 seconds after Lancing had gone ahead, finishing a flowing move with aplomb.

Gault and James Westlake both got in around the back only for their final ball to let them down but it was Pitcher with his pace and movement who was causing all manner of issues for the Lancing backline.

And those issues reached a nadir with 10 minutes played. Pitcher again got away, this time bearing down on Michael Plant's goal at a rate of knots when he was hauled down by David Sharman 25 yards out.

Referee Carl Smith had no choice but to send Sharman for an extremely early bath, leaving Lancing to face the remaining 8/9ths of the match with 10 men.

That wasn't the end of their problems either as Gault slammed the resulting free kick into the bottom corner to give Hassocks the lead.

Lewis Westlake extended the advantage to 3-1 with a rasping drive from the edge of the box but Hassocks again proved to be their own worst enemy when it came to the task of marking, Berry scoring another uncontested header with 10 minutes of the first half remaining.

That goal seemed to rock Hassocks and they looked grateful to hear the half time whistle. Not that it made much difference as they picked up exactly where they had left off at the start of the second half and it came as little surprise when Lancing made it 3-3 on the hour mark.

No prizes for guessing how this came about, a third free header of the afternoon this time for Finney after the Robins conceded a pretty unnecessary free kick in a dangerous position.

Seeing 10 men turn around a two goal deficit belatedly sparked Hassocks into life and the chances began to come.

Liam Benson should have done better with a free header of his own before a delightful move through Jack Rowe-Hurst and Pitcher fashioned an opportunity for James Westlake but he was again wasteful.

John then produced that aforementioned excellent block to maintain parity and that provided the springboard for Hassocks to go on and win the game.

Death replaced the frustrated Gault and shortly after Luke Akehurst chose a timely moment to score his first goal in Hassocks colours, heading home at the far post as the Robins retook the lead.

Given the nature of the tie, home connections would not have felt entirely comfortable holding only a one goal advantage with 10 minutes remaining and that sense of unease was only heightened when Rowe-Hurst squandered two decent opportunities, hitting the side netting with the first and then missing when well placed with Plant hopelessly out of position.

Thankfully those misses proved not to be costly and Death did eventually add a fifth in injury time, a crisp finish rounding off a move that involved Rowe-Hurst, James Westlake and Pitcher.

The result takes Hassocks to within one point of the 40 mark that Mark Dalgliesh and Phil Wickwar were targeting for survival at the start of the season and the latter of the duo expressed his happiness at the result.

"We struggled against 10 men but the main thing is the three points are on the board. A special mention to Ben John. Lancing tried to bully him but the young lad stood his ground and was excellent. I'm really happy for him."

Hassocks: B John; Tighe, Akehurst, Barnes, Bant; L Westlake; J Westlake, Rowe-Hurst; Gault; Benson, Pitcher.

Subs: Death, Wilkins (used), Galbraith-Gibbons, Price, P Wickwar (unused).