Hassocks end Supplementary Shield campaign with chastening defeat
Back in October, Horley Town ran out 8-0 winners over Hassocks at the Beacon. A fortnight ago, the boot was very much on the other foot as Hassocks triumphed 3-1 at the New Defence. The scoreline in the third and final meeting between Clarets and Robins of the season? Horley Town 8-2 Hassocks.
Three wildly different, madcap results which very much sum up the Robins' 2020-21. On their day, they have played some excellent football and mixed it with the best clubs in the Southern Combination Football League. Those days have been a little too rare though and when Hassocks underperform, they tend to do it in spectacular style. It is all or nothing.
Such inconsistencies are to be expected with a young squad. If Hassocks can keep this group of players together next season, then it will be fascinating to see how they progress. The potential is very much there, as shown by the fact that they finished their Supplementary Shield campaign above both Horley and Crawley Down Gatwick, who were top six clubs before the regular season was curtailed.
In the end, the hammering at Horley had no bearing on Hassocks missing out on a semi-final spot in the post-lockdown competition. No matter what happened at the New Defence, a Lingfield victory against Crawley Down would guarantee the Lingers top spot in Group C. They duly got the job done, defeating the Anvils 2-1 at the Sports Pavilion.
Hassocks probably suspected that this was not going to be their evening when James Littlejohn picked up an injury in the warm up and had to subsequently drop down to the bench. In some circumstances, such late disruption could be blamed for Horley taking the lead with just ten minutes played but on this occasion it was a strike of pure and simple brilliance from Ryan Smith which gave the hosts the early advantage.
Not for the first time in his career, Smith scored from inside his own half, beating Charlie Pugh from a full 60 yards with an effort that deserved to be marvelled at by an audience rather than occurring in the current behind-closed-doors world we live in.
Unsurprisingly, that goal rocked Hassocks and Horley had a second three minutes later. Smith this time turned provider, sending over a corner for Ryan Brackpool to head back across goal with the ball creeping in at the far corner.
Hassocks' chances of the win they needed to keep their hopes of a big semi alive were all but over when Horley added their third on 23 minutes. Andy Hall and Mario Quiassaca put together a pleasant passing move to slice through the Robins defence, finished off by Kevin Moreno-Gomez.
It was Hassocks' turn to score next. Straight from the restart, the Robins swept forward to tee up Charlie Pitcher who hit a sweet effort from the edge of the area for his 16th of the season from only 20 appearances. The striker has enjoyed quite the campaign following his summer arrival from Loxwood.
Quiassaca rattled the post on 33 minutes before adding Horley's fourth three minutes later, powering home another fine centre from Smith although plenty of questions could have been asked about Hassocks' marking.
4-1 was the score at the half-time and fans of perfect symmetry would have appreciated the second half finishing exactly the same too. Quiassaca hit his second and the Clarets' fifth seven minutes after the restart with a side footed effort from an Adam Pullin pull back.
Hassocks were beginning to look tired by now, a consequence perhaps of relying on the same 13 or 14 players to get through six matches in the space of three weeks after not having kicked a ball for four months. In attempt to inject some fresh legs, the Robins gave extended run outs to Connor Bradley, Luke Marshall and Kobe Dersley from the bench.
For youth teamer Dersley, this was a senior debut and he displayed several good touches, another reminder that the production sign shows no sign of abating. Hassocks under-18s were sat top of the North Division with six wins and a draw from seven games prior to the season's premature finish.
Horley also turned to their bench, introducing Adam Grant who had scored a hat-trick in the 8-0 earlier in the season. It did not take Grant long to begin tormenting Hassocks again as he calmly beat Pugh with a one-on-one opportunity after being played in by Pullin within nine minutes of his introduction.
There were still 20 minutes to play when goal number seven arrived. Pullin was again involved, his enterprising wing play finding Grant who laid off to Moreno-Gomez to notch his second of the evening. Grant then completed his own brace to make it 8-1 to the hosts with 15 minutes left to play.
Hassocks were suddenly facing the very real prospect of conceding double figures for the first time in senior football. Given how clinical Horley had been, it almost felt like an achievement for the Robins to get through the final quarter of an hour without another shot beating Pugh.
Instead, it was Pugh's opposite number George Hyde who was the last goalkeeper to pick the ball out of the net. Pat Harding rounded off a highly successful Supplementary Shield back in Hassocks colours with his sixth goal from six matches, producing a clean finish after pouncing on a loose ball.
Hassocks: Pugh; Gardner, Tighe, Turner, Tuck; Enticknap, Short, Loversidge, Troak; Pitcher, Harding. Subs: Marshall, Dersley, Bradley (used).