Liam Benson’s clever first half strike was enough to ensure that Hassocks signed off for 2018 with a 1-0 victory away at Shoreham.
It’s been a year that the Robins won’t remember too fondly. They won just three times in the first five months on their way to the club’s lowest finish for 24 years in April.
Relegation to Division One was only avoided due to the restructuring of the Bostik League which saw both Haywards Heath Town and Three Bridges promoted whilst only Saturday’s opponents were relegated.
It’s been a much better second half of the year however, Mark Dalgleish’s work on the transfer front over the course of the summer greatly improving the squad and leaving Hassocks just six points behind their 2017-18 points total with 18 games still left to play.
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Benson was one of the Hassocks manager’s new signings, returning to the Robins after six months with Lancing and his ninth goal of the season won all three points at Middle Road.
It arrived with 30 minutes played. Shoreham couldn’t clear a Jake Lindsey corner and when Spencer Slaughter drove in a low shot from the edge of the box, Benson showed quick reactions to stick out a foot and divert the ball over the head of Ben Kirk-Patrick guarding the post and into the top corner.
There were plenty of chances for both sides to score further across the 90 minutes. That neither could was largely down to the brilliance of the two goalkeepers on show.
Hassocks supporters needed no introduction to the man with the gloves for Shoreham.
James Broadbent was a hugely popular figure during his one-season at the Beacon, picking up a clean sweep of Player’s Player, Manager’s Player and Supporter’s Player of the Year at the end of the 2016-17 campaign before moving to Shoreham
for Bostik League football.
Broadbent stayed loyal to the Musselmen this summer and reminded his former club of all his qualities with a string of excellent first half saves which prevented Hassocks from running away with the game.
He saved from Harvey Blake from point-blank range after a brilliant run and cross from Joe Bull and then five minutes later produced a stunning stop at full stretch after Bull stepped around Daley McLennan and fired in a shot from the edge of the box.
Before those two opportunities, Slaughter sent a looping effort just over the bar and Lindsey bent a free kick wide of the post in what was a frenetic start from the Robins.
Bull went close again before the break, a driving run from midfield ending with a shot that wasn’t too far away.
The second half began in much the same fashion with the visitors on top once Shoreham captain Ross Myers had fired over after from the edge of the box after cutting through the Robins’ midfield.
Hassocks then hit the crossbar, a cleverly worked short freekick routine involving Harry Mills and Slaughter seeing the latter’s shot crash against the woodwork with Broadbent beaten and Johnson’s pace took him in on goal and around Broadbent but the angle and the covering of defender Lee Denyer did for him.
Benson went on a driving run down the right flank before cutting inside and shooting but Broadbent made another excellent stop low down to his left, although Benson perhaps should have squared with Johnson, Slaughter and Lindsey all in support.
That woke Shoreham up and they were much the better side in final 20 minutes, which is where Green earned his money and the Robins’ man-of-the-match award for an unbelievable spell in which he pulled off five excellent saves in the space of a couple of minutes.
Firstly, he turned away a low shot from Ryan Carse and when Bradley Tighe’s clearance was returned into the box by Alfie Proto-Gates, Green was forced into an acrobatic stop to keep out Myers’ header.
From the resulting corner, McLennan rose like the proverbial salmon but somehow Green flew across his goal to get a fingertip onto the ball and turn it around the post.
The next corner was an equally good delivery. This time, it fell to McLennan at the far post and his low volley was blocked by the feet of Green who then recovered brilliantly to block George Olulode’s attempt from the rebound.
Shoreham had a couple of other chances, Myers firing over and Kirk-Patrick seeing a dangerous cross headed away by captain Jordan Badger, making his 100th appearance for the club.
There was one freekick each in the final five minutes, Broadbent punching away Slaughter’s delivery with Dan Stokes’ controlled volley dropping onto the roof of the net and then Green confidently dealt with a Thomas Johnston delivery with the last play of the game.
Hassocks: Green; Tighe, Broomfield, Mills, Badger; Blake, Bull, Slaughter, Lindsey; Benson, Johnson.