Hassocks secure top flight status in most emphatic way
Hassocks secured their top flight status in the most emphatic of ways with a 6-0 victory away at Selsey to record their biggest win in five years.
A hat-trick from Phil Johnson along with goals from Nick Pitcher, Jake Booth and Nathan Miles took the Robins past the magical 40 points mark, leaving them seven clear of both Ringmer and Hailsham Town who are now the two sides left battling it out to avoid the final relegation spot to Division Two.
There was a very real danger that it could have been Hassocks joining the long-doomed duo of Crawley Down Gatwick and Saturday’s opponents after they recorded just two wins in their opening 19 league games of the campaign.
But since Mark Dalgleish and Phil Wickwar assumed control following Dave John’s decision to step down in December, eight wins and four draws have been recorded in the subsequent 17 games to ensure that Division One football will be played at the Beacon for the 21st consecutive season in 2015-16.
The first half was a scrappy affair with Hassocks playing up wind and down slope making it difficult for them to get going but they still went into the break two goals to the good, Johnson opening the scoring with a delightful shot on the turn after 25 minutes and then just before half time Pitcher hitting an exquisite finish from 20 yards.
Ryan Collins was withdrawn early into the second half and his replacement Booth didn’t take long to get his name on the scoresheet, finishing with aplomb after a great ball in from Miles.
That came in the 60th minute with the Robins running riot after that, scoring three more times to establish their biggest winning margin since hammering Eastbourne United Association in the extra preliminary qualifying round of the FA Cup in August 2010.
Miles continued his late season resurgence from back trouble with a third goal in three games for Hassocks’ fourth, finishing off a great team move after deft volley passes from both Johnson and Mark Price.
Johnson had been performing like an absolute machine all afternoon and he completed his hat-trick with two trademark goals in the final 15, sprinting clear of the defence to latch onto clever through balls and finishing from the angle.
One of those passes to set the Robins 24 goal top scorer away came from a majestic, David Beckham-esque 55 yard pass from player-manager Wickwar in a rare foray as an outfield substitute in place of Bradley Tighe and he was glowing with pride after the game at his sides escape from relegation.
“For such a young team to fight their way out of the relegation dogfight is a real achievement, they have grown week by week and from being seven points adrift of 16th at Christmas to where we are now says it all.”
Hassocks: Willett; Tighe, Wallis, Jacques, Marsh; Stokes, Pitcher, Collins, Price; Miles, Johnson.
Subs: Booth (Collins), P Wickwar (Tighe), Bant (unused).
Starman: Phil Johnson, another superlative performance.