Hassocks left to rue missed opportunities in battle at the bottom
Goals win games and at Loxwood, Hassocks had more than enough opportunities to leave Plaistow Road with a big three points in the battle to avoid relegation from the SCFL Premier Division.
The Robins though were unable to make one stick on the scoreboard. Loxwood in contrast saw Alfie Edmeads notch with their only real shot on target with five minutes remaining, securing a 1-0 win which allowed the Magpies to plunge Hassocks into the bottom three by leapfrogging them in the table.
It was some way for Loxwood to bounce back from a 10-1 defeat at the hands of Newhaven in midweek.
Hassocks though should have known better than most to beware a backlash from a side smarting from embarrassment as the Robins have frequently been there themselves.
Last season, Hassocks followed up a club-record 8-0 home defeat to Horley Town by winning away at Horsham YMCA for the first time in 17 years three days later.
Go back a little further and it was YM who were again on the receiving end of a Robins recovery, Hassocks defeating them 3-2 at the Beacon having become the first side Loxwood had beaten in 22 attempts in the 2019-20 campaign.
Hassocks were not just beaten at Plaistow Road on that occasion, they were hammered 3-0. This was at least a better performance on their return to the Magpies’ Nest but the result was no less disappointing.
It took some time for a cagey affair to come to live. Both sides seemed to be prioritising not losing over attempting to win and it took 15 minutes for there to be any sort of effort on goal.
Unsurprisingly, it was one of Hassocks’ brightest lights who forged the opportunity. Josh Short embarked on a great driving run through midfield but unfortunately, the quality of the finish could not match the approach play and he fired tamely at Fraser Trigwell.
An added layer of intrigue was provided by the presence of Spencer Slaughter and James Westlake in the Hassocks line up.
Slaughter had led Loxwood to the final of the Supplementary Shield last season as manager with Westlake assisting him and the former Magpies boss was in determined mood to make an impression having left the Nest last month.
One brilliant moment saw Slaughter beat two Loxwood men out wide after being released by Bradley Bant before squaring to Short. It took a fine block on the line from a covering defender to prevent Short’s effort giving Hassocks the lead.
10 minutes later and Slaughter made a lung-bursting run into the box, only to be pipped to the ball by the alert Trigwell.
Short and Slaughter then combined on the stroke of half time to work an opportunity for Bant advancing up the left. Bant through could only blaze over when very well placed.
Hassocks had certainly enjoyed the better of the first half, only to be let down by their finishing and final ball.
That continued into the second half when Bant defied his hobbit-like stature to win a header. He seemed more surprised than anybody else with the result being that the effort was the wrong side of the post.
Hassocks lost Connor Bradley and Joe Bull to injuries in a 10 minute spell midway through the half.
Lucas Tyrrell and Jude Wallis were introduced and managed to keep the momentum with the Robins.
Chances were now though at a premium as the game became even more scrappy, summed up nicely when Short was uncharacteristically uncomposed when shanking a cross after a promising break.
Short nearly made up for that when forcing Trigwell into tipping one over. From the resulting corner, Bradley Tighe should have at least put a free header on target.
Hassocks nearly gifted Loxwood a goal with 15 minutes remaining, a poor pass from Arthur Rawlingson as the Robins attempted to play their way out of trouble left a glorious chance for the hosts which they somehow spurned.
That was a warning sign Hassocks did not heed and with four minutes to go, they were caught out playing short again. This time, home substitute Edmeads made no mistake when beating Alex Harris.
Harris then left proceedings injured, meaning Jack Gardner had to take over in goal as the Robins had already made their three permitted subs.
Even playing with only 10 men, a teenage right back between the posts and just four minutes plus time added on left, the Robins should have found an equaliser.
Bant somehow won another header at the far post but again it was off target and did not trouble Trigwell.
With seconds remaining, Alfie Loversidge found himself in a similar position but he too missed.
It was one of those days when Hassocks could have been out there for three hours and still not scored. The Robins will know they must do better against title chasing Pagham next week.