There will be no FA Vase run to distract Hassocks from the woes of their league campaign after the Robins were well beaten 3-0 by Spelthorne Sports at the second qualifying round stage, writes Scott McCarthy.
Hassocks had advertised this game as them being “only eight games from Wembley”. Given that their current average of one win in 11 means that they aren’t even on course to win eight games this season, that seemed wildly optimistic even before you considered the fact that the draw had paired them with one of the better teams from the superior Combined Counties League Premier Division.
Speltorne have had an excellent start to the season and are currently sitting pretty in fifth place in the table.
They deserved to win this game, but once again Hassocks were left ruing a controversial refereeing decision for goal one, some bad luck for goal two and a lack of some pretty basic defending principles for goal three as the visitors Matt Weston took full advantage to help himself to a hat-trick.
Given that they conceded in the first and third minutes of their last two games, Hassocks would’ve been please with the start they made as they not only held out until the 15 minute mark but they were also the better team in the opening exchanges.
They could even have taken they lead via a flowing move up the pitch that ended in Will Broomfield connecting with a firm header that perhaps should have troubled Spelthorne goalkeeper Brendan Hazlett more than it did.
Spelthorne duly made Hassocks pay for that spurned opportunity with a huge helping hand from referee Luke Chapman.
Nathan Stroomberg appeared to have the ball grounded with both hands clasped around it when Weston booted him and the loose ball ended up in the back of the net.
There was clearly some ambiguity about what had gone on as Mr Chapman and his assistant took an age to come to a decision to allow the goal to stand, incensing Hassocks players and supporters alike.
Stroomberg meanwhile received lengthy treatment and while he was able to complete the game, Phil Wickwar revealed afterwards that the incident had left the young Hassocks goalkeeper with three badly swollen fingers that could rule him out for a few weeks - hardly ideal given that the Robins have six hugely important games crammed into the next three weeks.
Hassocks channelled their anger at that goal being allowed in the right way, going straight onto the front foot again and forcing Hazlett into an excellent stop from a Phil Gault free kick after Charlie Pitcher was fouled on the edge of the box. From the resulting corner, a towering header from Jordan Badger went just wide.
It was midway through the first half when Weston doubled his sides advantage, Tom Barnes stepping out of defence to make a challenge, only to see the ball ricochet off to Luke Richards who squared to Weston to fish neatly into the corner.
Despite that, there was still a feeling that Hassocks had a real shot of getting back into things after the break; on another day neither of those goals happens and they had a bench packed with quality including the likes of James and Lewis Westlake, Dan Stokes and Jamie Hillwood who has rejoined the club after a brief spell at Haywards Heath Town.
Wickwar said that the players were aware that they needed to keep it tight at the back early on as a two goal deficit was recoverable but a three goal deficit would’ve been game over.
And it was game over within eight minutes of the second half. Even Lord Lucan would’ve been proud of the disappearing act that the Hassocks defence produced as Badger was left completely exposed as the last man with Weston running clear to wrap up his treble and the tie.
Hassocks: Stroomberg; Barnes, Marsh, Badger; Maskell, Broomfield, Gault, Slaughter, Benson; Death, Pitcher.
Subs: J Westlake, Stokes, Hillwood (used), L Westlake, Harris (unused).