Hassocks 2, Newhaven 3: All three goals preventable in Robins defeat

Dan Stokes opening the scoring. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Dan Stokes opening the scoring. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

We may only be three games into the new campaign, but already it looks as though what Hassocks achieve this season will be largely determined by what version of their defence turns up each week.

All three goals in this 3-2 defeat to bogey side Newhaven were preventable; on Saturday at Arundel they kept a clean sheet on the way to a big three points; a week before that they let in two goals inside the opening 15 minutes which ended their hopes of an FA Cup run against Hollands and Blair.

It's very much Jekyll and Hyde stuff. When you can call upon a quartert of strikers of Michael Death, Liam Benson, Nathan Miles and the yet-to-be-seen-so-far Phil Gault, you will always be able to get goals at one end of the pitch.

If Hassocks can start keeping them out at the other, then they can be a match for any team in the division on their day.

This was a case in point as the early signs are Newhaven will improve upon last seasons eighth placed finish and Sussex RUR Charity Cup win, yet Hassocks were for large periods the better side.

Lee Robinson scored all four goals in their opening day hammering of Crawley Down Gatwick but he was conspicuous by his absence here and it took the Dockers a little while to get going without their talismanic forward.

Hassocks took full advantage of that to take the lead with only a quarter of an hour played. Death has been in superlative form so far this season and he was the architect of the opener, cutting in from the wing and gliding past three men before slipping the ball past the Newhaven defence.

Dan Stokes was the man who latched onto that and he showed great composure to beat Jake Buss for a rare goal, only his fifth in 83 games for the club.

Alex Harris denied Kyle Woolven with an excellent finger tip stop before Mr Hyde reared his ugly head on 24 minutes when four Hassocks players who could've either stopped Ian Robinson's deep cross or Tristan Jarvis' finish seemed mesmerised by proceedings, doing nothing to prevent the equaliser.

Three minutes later and 1-1 became 2-1. Jarvis was again the scorer and this time the question marks circled the goalkeeping as Harris was beaten from 30 yards by an effort that seemed to be straight at him.

Having gone from being the better team to finding themselves 2-1 down in less than five minutes, Hassocks were clearly rattled and they weren't the only thing as the woodwork took a bit of battering as well, Woolven hitting Harris' post from distance and then Ebou Jallow's follow up cannoned against the bar.

Death thought he had equalised but Buss showed the strongest of hands to keep out a powerful drive that seemed destined for the bottom corner and the importance of that save was made clear as Newhaven swept up the other end, Jallow flicked the ball on and Freddie Beale took advantage of a hesitant Harris - caught in two minds about whether he should come and collect - to poke home.

Harris denied Woolven just before the break after a barnstorming Henry Daly run while whatever Mark Dalgleish said to his players at the break clearly had the desired effect as Hassocks were much the better team in the second half.

Buss pulled off a stunning double save on the 70 minute mark and on 87 Hassocks' second half showing was finally rewarded when two of their substitutes combined, Jack Wilkins playing a perfect through ball which Miles sauntered onto to finish with aplomb.

That set up a tense last five as Hassocks poured forward but they were unable to find a equaliser, instead being left to reflect on what might have been if they'd been able to keep out those preventable Newhaven goals - a question that they will hope isn't to be repeated too regularly over the rest of the season.

Hassocks: Harris; Barnes, J Badger, Akehurst; Stokes, Slaughter, Mills, L Westlake, Bant; Benson, Death.

Subs: Miles, Wilkins, Hawkes (used), Marsh, Green (unused).