Hassocks one of four sides battling to avoid drop after Loxwood defeat

Michael Death scored Hassocks' goal
Michael Death scored Hassocks' goal

Hassocks have never won a game at Plaistow Road before and they were unable to change that statistic in order to boost their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier Division.

This 2-1 defeat against Loxwood leaves the Robins with just six games left to play, a run of fixtures which includes Haywards Heath Town, Chichester City and Pagham - three of the sides still battling away in one of the closest Southern Combination League title races in years.

There are still games with fellow strugglers Broadbridge Heath and Worthing United to come but United’s shock 2-1 win over Eastbourne Town leaves them five points ahead of the Robins, meaning it is probably now down to two from Eastbourne United, Arundel and Hassocks as to who will fill the remaining relegation spots along with Littlehampton Town.

If Hassocks are to escape, they’ll need to be better at both ends than they were here. They gifted the ball away to Loxwood for the hosts second goal of the game and missed a whole host of chances at the other end bar Michael Death’s 10th goal of the season which, arriving in injury time, proved to be too little, too late.

“We’ve put in a decent performance at a difficult place but again, there is nothing to show for the young lads efforts,” Phil Wickwar said afterwards.

“Had we had managed to score when we were on top in the first half, it would have been a different game. The second goal killed us and in the position we are in, you just can’t give away goals like that.”

Loxwood’s first goal wasn’t exactly pleasant watching from a defensive point of view either. Dean Wright was only 15 or so yards inside the Hassocks half when he found himself with nothing but open space between himself and Haig Kingston’s goal and he took full advantage, racing onto Hayden Skerry’s pass to bury the one-on-one opportunity.

The chances flowed for Hassocks after that and they were much the better the team. Dan Stokes shot straight at Sam Smith at the end of a flowing move, Death clipped in Joe Maskell but his effort trickled narrowly wide, former Robins favourite Eddie French made a vital block from debutant James Littlejohn and Death hit an attempted chip that ended up flying harmlessly over the bar.

Kingston was rarely troubled at the other end with Reece Hallard skewing an effort wide and Michael Wood seeing a drive deflected for a corner.

Loxwood did get the ball in the back of the net on the stroke of half time but Joe Holvey’s effort was rightly chalked off for offside and Littljohn had another good chance with the last play before the interval but he rushed his effort, dragging wide when he had far more time than he realised.

Hassocks began the second half in the ascendency again with Death looking a real livewire. Firstly, he drew a smart block from Smith from a tight angle and a minute later he managed to beat the Loxwood keeper but not the offside trap with the linesmans flag correctly raised to disallow the goal.

It wasn’t just in the box that Death was proving a handful but outside of it as well, another raking pass sending Matt Berridge away but Smith did well to shepherd him wide at the expense of a corner.

Berridge then produced a brilliant piece of opportunism to spot Smith off his line from a full 35 yards but his effort dropped agonisingly over the bar, after which Loxwood’s killer second arrived.

Hassocks surrendered possession to the Magpies midfield but there was still a chance to retrieve the situation.

Instead, the defence seemed to stand still as Loxwood played a succession of keepy ups which eventually ended with a thumping volley from Hallard from the edge of the box, leaving Kingston with no chance.

That blow rocked Hassocks and Loxwood could’ve added unmerited gloss to the scoreline, Josh Courtney and Skerry shooting wastefully wide and substitute Josh Neathey blazing over after stepping inside.

Death claimed a deserved consolation with the games last meaningful act, Jake Lindsey’s cross inviting Smith to try and claim but the Hassocks striker got there first to finish.

Hassocks: Kingston; Maskell, Broomfield, Slaughter, Stokes; Littlejohn, Berridge, Mills, Lindsey; Wilkins, Death.

Subs: Galbraith-Gibbons (Wilkins), Russell, Ross, Wickwar (unused).