Hassocks pick up first away win of the campaign at Lingfield
Whyteleafe was not where Hassocks had been expecting to kick off 2022 but the long drive inside the M25 proved worth it in the end as they picked up a first away win of the season.
First half goals from Josh Short and Jack Troak secured a 2-1 win over Lingfield, who had taken the decision 48 hours earlier to switch the game from their waterlogged Godstone Road home to the 3G surface of Church Road.
And although Lingfield have hosted matches here in the past, it was Hassocks who made themselves at home by taking a 2-0 lead inside of half an hour.
The confidence Brad Sweetman's young side have taken from holding Premier Division leaders Saltdean United in their last game a little over two weeks ago was there for all to see right from the first whistle.
Hassocks set out to play with a high tempo and disrupt Lingfield. This approach bore fruit for the Robins’ opening goal which arrived with nine minutes played.
James and Lewis Westlake harried in midfield to win possession from Braiden Hall.
Senior Westlake brother James slipped in Short who produced a clinical finish with the inside of his foot that gave Lingfield goalkeeper Johnny Thurbin no chance.
The hosts were struggling to contain the energy of industrious James and he soon fashioned another decent opening for Hassocks just past the quarter of an hour mark.
Troak was the recipient this time, scampering away down the flank. Frustratingly, his cross was wasteful as it sailed straight into the arms of Thurbin as Short and Alfie Loversidge looked to arrive in the area.
Jack Baden has been a revelation at left back during the Robins' recent good run of form and he was enjoying a lot of joy overlapping down the flank.
He was next to be released, this time by Lewis Westlake but the resulting cross from Baden flew out of play.
By this point, it was fairly obvious that if Hassocks could get their final ball right then they would stand a very good chance of extending their lead. That duly happened on 27 minutes.
James Westlake again fed a pass into a wide area for Short, who led three Lingfield defenders on a merry dance.
When Short had finally finished toying with the opposition, he played a low cross perfectly placed to Loversidge who was scythed down just as he was about to pull the trigger.
A penalty was the only outcome and Troak despatched the spot kick with aplomb for his first goal of the season.
You could see how much it meant to the popular forward to be starting the new year back on the scoresheet following a 2021 that was badly disrupted by injury.
The second half was never likely to be as comfortable for Hassocks as the first, although they could have made it three straight from kick off.
A long kick out of defence was flicked on by Troak to send Short away. He cut inside and forced a fine save on the stretch from Thurbin.
Lingfield began to exert ever increasing amounts of pressure on the Robins goal after that without ever really testing Harvey Parker, Hassocks’ Under 23s number one who was standing in for the absent Alex Harris.
That was until a clumsy challenge from Bradley Tighe gifted Lingfield a penalty with 58 minutes played.
Aaron Jenkins was the home player clattered and he duly punished Hassocks by beating Parker clinically from the spot.
Lingfield should have been level almost immediately as in the 120 seconds following Jenkins’ penalty, they passed up two gilt edged opportunities to equalise.
Haydn Dickinson somehow volleyed over from six yards out with the goal at his mercy.
The same player then produced an ever so slightly more acceptable miss when clearing the cross bar from 20 yards with only Parker standing in his way.
Sweetman attempted to break Lingfield's second half dominance with a change on 75 minutes.
Bradley Bant had been tireless in midfield on his return from injury and he made way for forward Joe Bull in amongst some positional adjustments.
The changes had the desired impact as Lingfield became less of a threat - so much so that Hassocks almost added a third to kill the game off as it entered the final 10 minutes.
Short was outstanding once again in creating an opportunity, teeing up Troak at the far post who could only drag wide.
Not that the miss mattered as Hassocks held on to get 2022 off to the perfect start and end a 14 month wait for a Premier Division victory on the road.
With 10 of the Robins’ 15 remaining league matches to be played away from the Beacon, it was a particularly timely moment to banish their travelling blues.