Hassocks draw at Lingfield to take Supplementary Shield group down to the wire
Who progresses from Group C of the SCFL Premier Division Supplementary Shield will go down to the final game after nothing could separate Lingfield and Hassocks in their second meeting of the competition.
A 2-2 draw at the Sports Pavilion leaves the Lingers top, two points ahead of Hassocks. The Robins have a superior goal difference, so a victory at Horley Town on Tuesday night combined with Lingfield failing to beat Crawley Down Gatwick could see Hassocks move into the semi-finals.
You would have got long odds on that at the start of this competition. The Robins were the lowest ranked team in Group C based on positions in the Premier Division table when the season was curtailed.
Something seems to have clicked though and they have enjoyed their best run of form of the campaign, losing just once from five games. Dave John will no doubt be delighted that his young side have made it this far and remain in contention for a place in the knockout stages.
That previous defeat came at Lingfield a week earlier in a fiercely competitive encounter. This was no different and Hassocks ended it with ten men, top scorer Charlie Pitcher seeing red for a second bookable offence as the game ticked into second half injury time.
The Robins made two changes from their thrilling 3-2 Tuesday night win away at Crawley Down. Under-18s duo Jack Gardner and Alfie Loversidge both missed out, replaced by Bradley Bant and Harvey Enticknap.
That meant that, bar Charlie Pugh starting in goal ahead of Dave Carruthers, Hassocks named exactly the same starting XI as had gone down at Lingfield seven days ago.
One of the reasons why Hassocks have fared so well in the Supplementary Shield has been the presence of Pat Harding. The Burgess Hill Town striker dual-signs for the Robins every season and the non-resumption of any Isthmian League competition has meant that Hassocks have been able to call upon his considerable services on a regular basis, 15 years after he departed for Eastbourne Borough.
At Lingfield, Harding made his 200th appearance for the club and he marked his double century in style, grabbing a brace to take himself onto five goals from five games in Hassocks colours this season.
It took until the 68th minute for Harding to open the scoring. Jack Troak did well down the left, cutting the ball back to Pitcher who slid in Harding. Home goalkeeper Johnny Thurbin kept out the initial effort, but the rebound fell straight to Harding, making no mistake with a side footed finish.
Hassocks were undone by two goals in the space of a minute against Lingfield last time out. History repeated itself in more ways than one as again, the hosts notched twice in quick succession following some inspired substitutions.
Sami Bakhit got the first from the bench on 77 minutes and his fellow replacement Josh Biddlecombe made it 2-1 to Lingfield on 79. Biddlecombe in particular seems to enjoy playing against Hassocks; it was he who netted what proved to be the winner a week ago having only been on the pitch for nine minutes.
On that occasion, Hassocks could find no way back. This time, Lingfield were ahead for just three minutes before Harding secured a share of the spoils. Troak was involved once more, playing a lovely cross into the box.
Initially, it looked like it was going beyond Harding until the striker stretched to produce a magical first touch to bring the ball down before placing a cool side footed volley out of reach of Thurbin.
Hassocks: Pugh; Tuck, Tighe, Turner, Bant; Littlejohn, Enticknap, Short, Troak; Pitcher, Harding. Subs: Loversidge, Bradley (used).