Ben Bacon is back at the Beacon and he marked his return to Hassocks with an 86th minute equaliser for the Robins away at Horsham YMCA.
The striker returned to the club from Steyning Town in midweek and his late leveller combined with an absolute rocket from Harvey Blake helped earn Hassocks a rare point from Gorings Mead.
This is a venue which has often proved fruitless for the Robins. They’ve won in Horsham just twice this century so to claim a share of the spoils against the side who finished as Premier Division runners up last season represents a good afternoon’s work for Mark Dalgleish and his side.
That it was delivered by Dalgleish’s new striker will have made it doubly pleasing. Hassocks look a little light in the forwards department following the departures of Liam Benson and Jake Lindsey - a situation not helped by Phil Johnson currently being side lined and the fact that they lost Jack Rowe-Hurst to injury here just after Blake had struck.
So Bacon’s return is a timely one - and there is certainly a feeling that he has unfinished business from his first spell with the Robins.
After all, it was Hassocks who had given Bacon his chance in senior football, plucking him from Haywards Heath Town’s reserve squad in the summer of 2016.
The striker hit nine goals in 24 games before going onto have spells with Steyning Town, Three Bridges, Saltdean United and Lingfield.
Last time the Hassocks faithful saw him on a pitch, he was smashing four goals past the Robins in Saltdean United’s 4-1 win at the Beacon just under a year ago. Now, they’ll be hoping he continues banging them in while wearing Hassocks colours.
Based on this, there is every chance of that happening, especially as this was Bacon’s first 90 minutes in three months so you suspect there is a lot more to come once he gets up to speed.
YM came into the game having lost their two league fixtures so far with manager Peter Buckland being very keen to stress that this is a new-look, younger side who are very much a work in progress compared to last year’s title challengers.
Some of that can go down as bluster. They had an eye catching FA Cup win away at Croydon seven days previously and still have more than enough quality to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. That makes this a good point for Hassocks.
Dalgleish made three changes from the Robins side who’d knocked off Langney Wanderers in their own FA Cup tie last week. Bacon came in for James Littlejohn, Harry Mills replaced Will Broomfield at the heart of the defence and Alex Spinks was rewarded for his game-changing substitutes appearance against Langney with a starting berth in place of Lewis Westlake. Spinks also had the captaincy for good measure.
The game was 30 minutes old when Harvey Blake opened the scoring with what will surely win Goal of the Season, even if we are only four games into the campaign.
Blake loves nothing more than scampering forward from right back and he’s been threatening to score from such situations for some time, most notably when skipping past three men and hitting the bar from 25 yards against East Preston.
There was no dancing around opponents on this occasion, instead Blake went for the more direct route of hitting an absolute rocket which left Aaron Jeal with absolutely no chance.
That was the only goal of the first half. The second 45 saw YM come into proceedings and they equalised just eight minutes after the restart.
There was some ambiguity about the identity of the scorer. The goal came as a result of a mass scramble in the Hassocks box with YM crediting the final touch to Dean Lovegrove although a dubious goals panel might rule it was in fact a Josh Green own goal.
There was no such doubt about the identity of YM’s second scorer, Martin Smith making it 2-1 just 11 minutes after the equaliser had arrived.
Dalgleish threw on Joe Bull for Spinks with 15 minutes remaining, sacrificing one of his holding midfielders for a more attacking outlet.
That had the desired effect when Bacon struck with just four minutes remaining. Hassocks will be hoping it’s the first of many.
Hassocks: Green; Blake, Mills, Kublickas, Whittingham; Berridge, Spinks; Troak, Rowe-Hurst, Hillwood; Bacon.
Subs: Westlake (Rowe-Hurst), Bull (Spinks), Jacques, Enticknap, Broomfield (unused).