Hassocks edged out by Lingfield in enthralling cup tie
There is no social distancing going on in Group C of the Southern Combination Football League Premier Division Supplementary Shield.
Hassocks lost for the first time in the competition at Godstone Road, edged out 3-2 in an enthralling game against Lingfield to leave a wide open group delicately poised at the halfway stage.
Three points separate Lingfield, Hassocks, Crawley Down Gatwick and Horley Town. The sides will all face each other one more time and if they continue to exchange points as freely as they have in the first round of matches, then who tops the table and progresses to the semi finals will go down to the wire.
Lingfield currently occupy first place but Hassocks left Surrey feeling it should be them leading the way. The Robins’ management were left infuriated by a controversial second half penalty decision when the sides were locked at 1-1, paving the way for Lingfield to score twice in as many minutes to sneak a two-goal advantage which Hassocks could not quite overturn.
The Robins made two changes from the side who had shocked Horley by winning 3-1 at The New Defence on Tuesday night. Under-18s duo Alfie Loversidge and Jack Gardner were replaced by Harvey Enticknap and returning captain Bradley Bant. Bradley Tighe meanwhile made his 100th appearance in a Hassocks shirt.
Lingfield seized the initiative through Rhys White with 19 minutes played. The Lingers looked like they were going to make it to the interval with the advantage until a brilliant strike from distance from Jack Troak levelled things up five minutes before the break.
One of the highlights of this truncated 2020-21 season from a Hassocks point of view has been the burgeoning link up play between Troak and James Littlejohn. They were at it again here, a nice passage down the right between Enticknap and Littlejohn culminated in Littlejohn finding Troak cutting inside from the left flank to collect a pass in the centre of the pitch 25 yards out.
There still did not seem much on but a burst of pace carried Troak easily past Stephen Hodge, at which point he unleashed a rocket of a shot catching Lingfield goalkeeper Johnny Thurbin unawares as it flew into the far corner of the home goal.
It was just past the hour mark when the penalty which so riled the Robins arrived. A shot from point blank range crashed into a Hassocks shoulder. Superhuman reactions would have been needed to get out of the way and yet much to the surprise of the visitors, referee Mark Gidman pointed to the spot.
Substitute Josh Biddlecombe duly converted having only been on the pitch for nine minutes. That was the start of an interesting afternoon for Biddlecombe, who 15 minutes later would find himself heading for an early bath after picking up two yellow cards in double quick time. A goal and a red card inside 24 minutes was impressive going.
Lingfield’s third had arrived through Hodge less than 120 seconds after Biddlecombe’s successful spot kick. Hassocks rallied to set up a tense final ten minutes when a flurry of attacks lead to a loose ball spilling to Pat Harding lurking at the back post. Harding made no mistake, tidily placing an effort into the bottom corner out of the reach of Thurbin.
Three minutes after Harding’s strike and Biddlecombe was dismissed. Hassocks now had seven minutes plus injury time to force an equaliser against ten men but despite the Robins throwing the kitchen sink at Lingfield, they were unable to find a way through and so surrendered their unbeaten Supplementary Shield record.
Hassocks: Carruthers; Tuck, Tighe, Turner, Bant; Littlejohn, Enticknap, Short, Troak; Pitcher, Harding. Subs: Gardner, Bull, Bradley (used).