It was an all too familiar story for Hassocks on Saturday as they dominated the possession count but missed a plethora of chances in going down to a 2-1 defeat against Broadbridge Heath.
This was the second meeting of these two sides this season – the first coming back in October when the Robins ran out 2-1 winners in the second qualifying round of the FA Vase.
Heath were forced into fielding defender Andy Howard between the sticks that day as they were without all four of their recognised shot stoppers and how the Beacon faithful must have been wishing that was the case again this time around given the performance of Joe Fisher in goal.
He pulled off two stunning second half saves as the visitors survived a second half onslaught from a Hassocks side that threw everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to get something from the tie.
In a game that ebbed and flowed, both sides had chances in the first 15 minutes to open the scoring, Nathan Miles firing straight at Fisher after good work from Ellis Common and then Merv Bhujan missed a gilt-edged opportunity after ghosting in to latch onto a speculative ball over the top and lob over the advancing Sam Brock before hitting his attempted volley at an open goal high, wide and handsome.
Hassocks never looked comfortable defending set pieces all afternoon and that was the source of Heath’s opener – three successive corners saw Brock push the first over the bar, save well from former Robin Matt Carruthers’ thumping header from the second before Jack McNab nodded home at the back post from the third delivery.
The mercurial Mark Price was at the heart of most of the home sides promising play, intercepting a loose pass from Adam Wicking to test Fisher with a rasping volley and then somehow avoiding entering referee Jamie Wells’ book for a rugby tackle that would have drawn roars of approval at Twickenham.
Inbetween those incidents, Bhujan squandered another excellent chance when Nick Pitcher was profligate in possession to allow the striker in but his effort was again off target much to the disdain of the visiting bench.
Price and Phil Johnson both had shots on the turn saved early in the second half before Heath struck their decisive second, a slide rule pass allowing Jamal Sultan to use his blistering pace to beat the enigmatic Dan Jacques to the ball, round Brock and slot home in textbook style.
Heath seemed content to sit back after that which allowed Hassocks into the ascendency with Price seeing a nonchalant dipping effort tipped over brilliantly at full stretch from the backpeddaling Fisher who also denied Dan Stokes with an equally impressive full length save to his right after the young midfielder was played in by Jacques’ ball over the top.
Jacques put a free header from an inswinging corner over the bar and Brock saved well with his legs to deny visiting substitute Kieran Greig from a one-on-one after he’d outpaced Common.
The Robins felt they were denied a stonewall penalty when Price was scythed down in the box in the 89th minute before they did net a deserved goal seconds later, Bradley Bant playing in Phil Johnson who finished with aplomb.
Pitcher had two efforts in injury time, one which was deflected wide and from the resulting corner he put a deep header just the wrong side of the post as the visitors held on to condemn Hassocks to another loss.
Hassocks: Brock; Common, Marsh, Pitcher, Jacques; Stokes, Bant, Price, Rose; Johnson, Miles.
Subs: Booth (Rose), Collins, Davess, Tighe, P Wickwar (unused).
Starman: Mark Price