Playing lower division opposition in knockout competitions has always been a bane of Hassocks’ existence but they got the job done 5-1 against Division One Lingfield to progress to round three of the Peter Bentley League Cup.
Over the course of the last seven years, six teams from the second tier of the Southern Combination League have sent the Robins packing in the counties three cup competitions but this clinical display ensured that Lingfield didn’t add their name to that of Bexhill United, Littlehampton Town, Little Common, East Preston, Seaford Town and Rustington on the list of vanquishers.
It took less than a minute for Bradley Bant to put the Robins ahead although they could easily have been 1-0 down within the opening 15 seconds, Dan Jacques being bundled over in comedic style as he failed to deal with a long ball forward allowing Harry Banks to get away and cross to Ayden Richards who dragged his shot just wide of the post.
From the resulting goal kick, Hassocks got the ball forward to win a free kick out on the right hand touchline and Bant’s delivery sailed over the head of Dan Taggart and into the back of the net.
Surely there couldn’t be any more action packed into the first 60 seconds of the tie? Think again. Straight from the restart Banks embarked on a mazy run past three home players and directly into the box where his cross was blocked by Josh Hawkes amid big appeals of a hand ball which referee David Philip categorically turned down.
That breakneck end-to-end action obviously couldn’t continue as neither side could conjure another opportunity for 16 minutes when the visitors Connor Summerfield getting away down the right only to see Richards just fail to connect to his drilled cross.
They were made to pay for that miss on the half hour mark, a long ball forward from Hawkes looking to be heading back to Taggart but all manner of confusion with his defender ensured, the ball bouncing free to Dan Stokes who gleefully accepted the gift to stroke home into an empty net.
Lingfield had a good chance to get back into it five minutes before the break, the Robins defence failing to pick up sufficiently allowing Kieran Boyland to flick onto Summerfield but his low effort was well turned away by the foot of George Willett, making his first appearance of the season.
The visitors started the second half the better team, Ashley Marsh getting the faintest of touches to deflect a Matt Burroughs effort wide before Summerfield got the goal he’d been threatening, curling a delightful effort over Willett from the edge of the box.
The next score would be crucial and there wasn’t long to wait for it as once again Hassocks received a helping hand from Taggart; this time he failed to deal with a fantastic cross from Stokes, succeeding in only palming the ball out to Jonno Melia whose air kick teed up Bant to drive home.
Bant turned provider for the fourth on 71 minutes, his pinpoint corner being met with a bullet header from Melia, a deserved goal for the hardworking striker on what was not only his Hassocks debut but also his first game in 11 months after injury.
Ten minutes later and it was five, another Bant delivery finding the head of the unmarked Hawkes who powered home from a matter of yards for his first goal for the club.
That wrapped things up for Hassocks on a sombre occasion at the Beacon with a minutes silence in memory of Worthing United’s Jacob Schilt and Matthew Grimstone - who was a friend and colleague of the Robins Jake Booth at Brighton and Hove Albion’s Lancing training ground - as well as the nine others who tragically died in last week’s Shoreham Air Disaster being impeccably observed before kick off.
Hassocks: George Willett; Luke Akehurst, Ashley Marsh, Rowan Wallis, Dan Jacques; Dan Stokes, Josh Hawkes, Nick Pitcher, Mark Price, Bradley Bant; Jonno Melia.
Subs: Arni Kublickas (Pitcher 68), Jake Booth (Melia 63), Ryan Collins (Stokes 81), Bradley Tighe, Reece Wickwar (unused).
Starman: Can’t look beyond Bradley Bant, two goals and two assists for the diminutive midfielder.
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