AFC Uckfield Town 4, Hassocks 2: Robins throw away 2-0 lead to lose in extra-time

Michael Death was on target again
Michael Death was on target again

For the second successive season, Hassocks were eliminated at the earliest possible stage of a knockout competition by AFC Uckfield Town.

Last season the Oaks were 2-1 winners in the Peter Bentley League Cup in extra time, this time it was the Sussex RUR Charity Cup and again it required a full 120 minutes for the hosts to advance to the next round with a 4-2 victory.

You'd have got long odds on the game making it into extra time, let alone Uckfield progressing to the last 16, with 15 minutes left to play, given that at the that point Hassocks were ahead 2-0 and looking relatively comfortable.

But they then proceeded to produce a quite remarkable collapse, conceding in the 76th, 88th, 108th and 118th minutes to crash out against opponents who had lost three out of four so far this season, conceding eight along the way.

If defence and the manner in which the Robins conspired to throw this game away is a major cause of concern at the moment for everyone at the Beacon, then they can at least take solace from what is going on at the other end of the pitch.

Focussing on the positives has long been the Hassocks way and they will be keen to talk up the contributions of Michael Death and Liam Benson who were both on target again, taking their tallies to three apiece for the campaign.

Their goals have made light of the loss of the attacking threat provided by Charlie Pitcher and Jamie Hillwood who both moved to Haywards Heath Town in the summer and Jack Rowe-Hurst who has signed for Ringmer as well as the continuing absence of Phil Gault.

Both Benson and Death's goals were headers and both came in the first half, Benson's coming after his early introduction from the substitutes bench midway through the opening 45 and then Death doubled the advantage after an excellent cross from Harry Mills with half an hour played.

Hassocks are all too aware of their defensive shortcomings thus far in this campaign and they moved to address it here by switching from a back three to a back four as well as recalling captain Ashley Marsh.

They also gave a debut to goalkeeper Nathan Stroomberg, signed in midweek from Lewes. Stroomberg came in at the expense of Alex Harris who has endured a testing start to his third spell as a Hassocks player.

Despite all those changes to the back line and goalkeeper, as soon as Shaun Loft pulled one back for Uckfield it was a familiar story as a wave of panic contagiously spread like wildfire through the Hassocks ranks as they collectively fell apart.

So far this season once one goal has flown in the Robins look ridiculously vulnerable to conceding more and that reached a nadir on this occasion.

There was a feeling that had Hassocks been able to call upon the experience and leadership of the likes of the injured James Westlake and Spencer Slaughter as well as Gault and Josh Hawkes then perhaps they might have possessed the nous to close the game out.

They couldn't and didn't though, Richie Welch ensuring the extra 30 minutes was necessary with his equaliser two minutes from the end of normal time.

Bailo Camara added the third shortly after the half time in extra time and Uckfield's safe progression was secured by Dean Stewart-Hunter with 10 minutes left on the clock.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Hassocks with plenty of their ire being directed at referee Ciaran Kane who made a number of baffling decisions throughout, although Hassocks really did have no-one to blame but themselves for their exit.

Hassocks: Stroomberg; Akehurst, Barnes, J Badger, Marsh; Stokes, Mills, L Westlake, Wilkins; Miles, Death.

Subs: Benson, Bant (used), Price, Dalgleish, Harris (unused).