Hassocks 0, Pagham 3: Lions roar to victory at Robins
Pagham haven't lost in the league since the opening day of the season and there was little chance of that record ending as they sauntered to a 3-0 victory over Hassocks at the Beacon.
The Robins have now faced all of the realistic title contenders bar Haywards Heath Town and Pagham have easily been the best of the lot, a view shared by Hassocks boss Phil Wickwar.
"We stuck at it but no complaints - we were second best today. There is no shame in that against a team that good, the best we've faced this season."
Ever the optimist though, Wickwar added, "We could've done better with the soft second goal and for their third, we didn't think it was a foul and then the free kick took a deflection."
The fact that Hassocks goalkeeper James Broadbent was voted as the supporters man of the match tells it's own story as he made three outstanding saves in particular which helped keep the scoreline somewhat respectable.
Joe Shelley has lifted the Southern Combination League title in each of the past three seasons - with Horsham, Littlehampton Town and East Preston - and the talented journeyman midfielder opened the scoring with 12 minutes on the clock.
Hassocks' trials and tribulations in dealing with set pieces have been well documented but for once there was little blame that could be attached, Shelley rising to produce an absolute bullet header from a superb corner delivery.
With the Lions having conceded only nine goals in 13 league games coming into the tie, Hassocks faced an uphill struggle to get back into the game from that point, especially missing two of their inform forwards in Nathan Miles and Ben Bacon.
And that struggle became an all but impossible task on 26 minutes when Kieron Pamment doubled Pagham's lead.
Bonfire Night is traditionally a time to give to charities and the Hassocks defence got in the spirit of generosity, deciding that rather than clear their lines they would give Pagham a couple of opportunities to get crosses in which they wouldn't effectively clear, eventually giving Pamment the chance to net.
Things looked to be getting even worse when Mark Price's body gave up on him on the half hour mark but the subsequent personnel and tactical reshuffle that followed belatedly got Hassocks going with James Westlake having a decent chance from which he couldn't find a finish.
Hassocks huffed and puffed at the start of the second half before the game was finally killed off. A quick break saw a Pagham forward appear to trip over the ball rather than being fouled but a free kick was awarded which Scott Murfin fired home via a deflection from the wall for 3-0.
The Robins kept going despite what was clearly an insurmountable task and had a couple of opportunities to pull a goal back, Ashley Marsh rampaging forward from left back to produce an exquisite cross which Liam Benson should have finished and Jamie Hillwood blazing high, wide and handsome when well placed.
While the result leaves Pagham as a clutch of teams challenging leaders Shoreham with seven points between the top four, it is even tighter at the bottom - Hassocks are one of eight clubs separated by just three points from the relegation zone.
With a run of games against teams around them coming up, the Robins face a season defining period before Christmas in which they know they must escape the clutches of the bottom three.
Hassocks: Broadbent; Mills, Badger, Akehurst, Marsh; Hawkes; J Westlake, Bant; Price; Benson, Gault.
Subs: Death, Hillwood, Barnes (used), L Westlake, Pitcher (unused).
Don't miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you'll be amongst the first to know what's going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on 'sign in' (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don't miss out!