Hassocks reach last eight of RUR Cup after extra-time win
It turns out that the Hassocks revival is not just restricted to league football. The Robins are into the quarter-finals of the Sussex Principal RUR Charity Cup after flying past Crawley Down Gatwick 2-1 at the Beacon.
Nothing could separate the sides over 90 even minutes which ebbed and flowed, played out in first rain and then gradually descending mist on a moody evening in Mid Sussex.
Extra-time was necessary after things finished 0-0, a scoreline which normally accompanies tedious games of football.
This though was anything but boring and nobody was complaining about an extra half hour, especially the fan on the sideline heard to say: “Excellent, a bonus 30 minutes away from my missus.”
As recently as six weeks ago, not many would have given Hassocks much hope of keeping man from wife by taking Down to extra time.
The Robins’ struggles in the opening three months of the season are fast becoming a distant memory however; they have now won four, drawn three and lost only two of their last nine matches.
That lengthy autumn injury list has begun shrinking as key players return - and they do not come much more key than Jack Troak.
The Hassocks captain scored both goals against Down in a typically energetic performance down the left flank in which he did not give his former teammate Harvey Blake a moments peace.
Having Troak fit is as good as a new signing for Brad Sweetman. Troak brings goals - something the Robins have missed since Charlie Pitcher’s summer departure - and boundless enthusiasm that rubs off on everyone around him.
Pitcher is of course another ex-Robin now of Crawley Down’s parish. He led the line for the Anvils and came closest of anyone to opening the scoring in the first 15 minutes.
Hassocks passed up two opportunities to clear their lines in a matter of seconds. Oli Leslie crossed and Pitcher with his back to goal produced a chest and bicycle kick which dropped just over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
The Robins created their first chance three minutes later with a lightning quick counter. A crunching Dan Turner tackle on Josh Brown in the home box led to Troak scampering up the left.
Troak switched to Lewis Westlake who touched inside to Jude Wallis. From 30 yards, Wallis hit a strike which beat Down goalkeeper Alex Bellingham but not the cross bar.
After clattering the top of the goal once, the ball looped up 15 yards into the air. Remarkably, it then dropped straight back onto the bar before bouncing out for a goal kick.
Turner thought he had scored with the last play of the first half, a looping header from a Lewis Westlake free kick fumbled in by Bellingham. Alfie Loversidge though had strayed offside when challenging the goalkeeper and so the goal was chalked off amongst minimal appeals.
Hassocks were more vehement in their belief that they should have had a penalty eight minutes into the second half.
Turner again was involved, his header from another pinpoint Lewis Westlake delivery appearing to be blocked by the hand of Mike Spence. Neither referee Simon Faires nor his assistant James Slaney agreed.
Josh Short came to the fore next, fashioning good opportunities with three driving runs which provided routine saves for Bellingham.
Turner was also denied by the Down goalkeeper after staying up from a corner, picking up the pieces of a fine slide tackle from substitute Marshall Smith, sidestepping a man and cracking a low shot towards goal.
Down appeared to be getting tired towards the end of the 90, perhaps as a result of their past three matches being postponed.
It did not come as too much of a surprise therefore when Hassocks took the lead six minutes into the additional 30. Lewis Westlake was scythed down in the box as he jinked towards goal and Troak confidently despatched the resulting penalty.
That seemed to shake Down into life. Within five minutes of Troak’s opener, another ex-Robin Harvey Enticknap headed on a free kick for fellow substitute Ben Chowney to bundle home an equaliser.
Hassocks were lucky not to concede a penalty right on the stroke of half time in extra time. Leslie was caught in the box but his theatrical scream led Mr Faires to believe the Down forward was making a mountain out of a mole hill and so play was waved on.
There were a couple of further hairy moments for the Robins to navigate. They were especially grateful for Alex Harris making a superb flying stop to his right to keep out a bending Nick Sullivan shot before Troak won it for Hassocks on the counter with five minutes left.
James Westlake turned over possession in midfield, releasing Troak with a defence splitting pass. Captain Jack was calmness personified as he raced clear and beat Bellingham with a low, hard effort drilled into the corner.
Hassocks travel to Little Common in the SCFL Premier this Saturday.