An end to end encounter between Hassocks and Broadbridge Heath ended in the right result as the sides played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Beacon.
Merv Bhujan had given the visitors the lead inside the first seven minutes and there was an even quicker goal after the break as Jamie Hillwood chose an opportune time to net his first of the season with less than 120 seconds of the second half played.
Plenty has been made of the struggles Hassocks have had this season when it comes to availability and Phil Wickwar again eluded to it in his programme notes before saying that he believes a corner had been turned in terms of getting some consistency in selection from his better players.
That was borne out by the return to the match day squad of Ashley Marsh, Mark Price, Phil Gault, Jamie Hillwood, Tom Barnes, Dan Jacques and Nick Pitcher giving the Robins arguably their strongest line up and bench of the season.
Players turning up is one thing but there is little the club can do to prevent injuries and the news that number one George Willett is facing a spell on the sidelines after fracturing his foot running a half marathon last weekend will have come as a significant blow.
Reece Wickwar took his place here despite battling with a hand injury of his own and on the rare occasions he was called into action he did well, producing two excellent saves in particular that helped earn this most welcome of points.
The tone for the encounter was set as early as the third minute, Gault and strike partner Michael Death linking up well with the latter curling an effort from distance just wide of Michael Chester’s post.
Bhujan’s opening goal was a fine one, the in-form striker collecting a knock down on the edge of the box to finish with a low and hard half volley that was just out of reach of Wickwar’s despairing dive.
Lee Wragg test the Robins keeper with an effort at a comfortable height that produced a fine sprawling save around the post but chances were at a premium after that for both sides despite the fact that the game willingly ebbed and flowed from one end to the other.
Price’s sensational work rate in front of the back four ensured that Heath were never able to get the ball down and play despite manager Steve Painter’s constant urgings as the final touch was missing from both sides towards the end of the first half - Hillwood releasing Dan Stokes whose floated cross was centre meters away from Gault’s head with Heath breaking straight up the other end only to see Jamal Sultan’s low ball in somehow evade everyone piling into the box.
It was young right back Bradley Tighe who created the equaliser with the second half less than two minutes old, a powerful run forward ending with a beautiful cross to the far post that was astutely headed in by Hillwood.
Bhujan went close to restoring Heath’s lead but his low stooping header was brilliantly turned around the post from close range by Wickwar before both teams had golden opportunities to win the game in the last ten minutes.
Gault was well placed when he was found on the edge of the box but a bobble saw the ball bounce up just as he was about to strike with the end result being it being sent harmlessly over the bar while some slack marking allowed Heath a free header on goal on 88 minutes that was wastefully put wide.
Heath were camped in the Hassocks half from that point on but the Robins did well to see the game out, Wickwar saying afterwards, “We’re happy with a point given the way we were hanging on at the end although we did have the chances to take all three but a much better showing all round.”
Hassocks: R Wickwar; Tighe, Marsh, Wallis, Akehurst; Stokes, Hawkes, Price, Hillwood; Death, Gault.
Subs: Bant (Price 75), Barnes (Death 83), Jacques, Pitcher, P Wickwar (unused).
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