Eastbourne United 0, Hassocks 1: Sun always shines on Hassocks at The Oval

Action from Hassocks' match against Spelthorne Sports on Saturday. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Action from Hassocks' match against Spelthorne Sports on Saturday. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

Eastbourne is known for having one of the highest sunshine levels of anywhere in the country, and the sun certainly always seems to shine on Hassocks whenever they visit Eastbourne United, writes Scott McCarthy.

They arrived on Tuesday night "staring down the barrel" according to joint boss Phil Wickwar after a run of nine defeats in a row in all competitions; they left the Oval with victory and all three points for the fifth consecutive time.

Since gaining promotion back to the Premier Division in 2014, United have finished comfortably clear of the Robins in every season yet there just seems to be something about the 28 mile trip to the east that brings out the best in Hassocks.

This was by no means their most impressive performance at the Oval - that was the 2-1 win in January 2014 which bought only a third win in a similarly barren 15 game spell - but it was certainly their most important and the 1-0 score line could have easily been more.

The result was built on a back-to-basics approach. Hassocks have always been known for being wildly inconsistent, one of the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde teams around but even taking into consideration the fact that they always go through peaks and troughs, this trough was proving particularly damaging and it was difficult to see when or how it would turn around.

Well it turned around thanks to a back-to-basics approach, the Robins switching from a three man defence to line up in two banks of four and giving an old school Hassocks performance, high on effort and with no player ever giving up - something that had been sadly conspicuous the longer the losing streak went on.

Charlie Pitcher in particular was excellent, terrorising the United back four with his pace and work rate. The young striker never gave them a moment to rest and on another day could've had a hat-trick as he squandered a succession of one-on-one chances.

Pitcher wasn't the only one guilty of missing opportunities as Phil Gault, Spencer Slaughter and James Westlake were all denied by Phil Hawkins in the United goal who was having an inspired evening to keep his side in the contest.

It was Jordan Badger's header in the third minute that settled the tie. When you've got the combination of a player with Badger's aerial ability and deliveries that the likes of Lewis and James Westlake can provide, you will always have a chance of notching from such scenarios and so it proved as Badger's towering header gave Hassocks the lead.

Hassocks showed a confidence that you wouldn't associate with a team who have tasted victory just once so far this season and it was understandably a nervey last 15 minutes as United threw everything at the Robins in an attempt to wrestle something from the tie.

They met a steadfast back four however and were unable to find a way past Nathan Stroomberg, playing through the pain barrier after receiving a whack in the hand in the defeat to Spelthorne Sports at the weekend.

There was a huge collective relief at the final whistle as the Robins clung on to the three points but Wickwar was remaining firmly grounded, saying "It's a fully deserved victory but it is only a start" - a sensible approach given that they move onto a far more desolate hunting ground in AFC Uckfield Town on Saturday for a game that already looks like a relegation six pointer.

Hassocks: Stroomberg; Maskell, Broomfield, Badger, Akehurst; J Westlake, L Westlake, Slaughter, Benson; Gault, Pitcher.

Subs: Death (used), Wilkins, Price, Marsh, John.