Hassocks' winning run halted by high-flying Pagham
High-flying Pagham arrived at Hassocks in the SCFL Premier on Tuesday evening hoping for a gentle warm up ahead of their FA Vase second round trip to Athletic Newham this Saturday.
And whilst the Lions left with all three points courtesy of a 2-1 win, it was perhaps not as straightforward as they would have expected as they had to rely on two goals which were gifts really from the Robins.
Hassocks came into the game buoyed by securing back-to-back wins for the first time this season, following up last Tuesday’s 5-0 thrashing of Montpelier Villa in the Sussex RUR Charity Cup with a gritty 2-1 victory over Alfold at the weekend.
That has left a real feel good factor around the Robins at the minute, although how long that lasts remains to be seen with upcoming matches against in-form Broadbridge Heath and Peacehaven & Telscombe in the next 11 days.
What Hassocks cannot do against opponents as good as those two - and Pagham, of course - is concede cheap goals early on.
Unfortunately, that is what happened here when the Robins gave the ball to Ross Edwards in midfield under no pressure at all with only four minutes played.
Edwards could not believe his luck. He slipped in Ryan Morey who needed no second invitation to drive towards the home goal and pass to Joe Clarke to apply the finish.
Jake Heryet came close to making it 2-0 on to the 15 minute mark,
winning and then taking a free kick from a promising position which Alex Harris scrambled across his goal to turn behind.
A lull in proceedings was followed by a period of Hassocks dominance as the game ticked past the half hour.
Dan Turner and Phil Gault both met pinpoint Jack Baden corners with tame headers that should have done more to trouble Lewis Broughton in the Pagham goal.
Sandwiched between those two chances was an opportunity for Broughton to show his worth, superbly tipping over a Gault effort from 25 yards after the veteran produced some nifty footwork to make space in a tight spot.
It was against the run of play when Pagham doubled their advantage five minutes before the break.
Jack Langford was denied a fine individual goal when his run from the halfway line was kept out by a decent stop from Harris.
The danger had not passed though and Hassocks were completely asleep from the resulting corner, leaving the Lion's giant centre back Dylan Jelley to head home Morey's delivery. To say the defending was wobbly would be an understatement.
There was still time for the Robins to register two more attempts prior to the interval.
James Westlake was next to be denied from distance by Broughton and a quick Bradley Bant corner ended with Baden shooting wide.
The second half continued in a similar manner. Jack Troak might have scored twice in quick succession on his first start since April following injury, seeing one effort blocked and then being inches away from turning in a Josh Short cross after a blazing run from the midfielder.
Short then turned in the box to fire over when well placed. Pagham boss Ryan Pharo responded by making a double change to try and stem the flow and it worked as the Lions fostered two golden opportunities to sew the three points up.
One of those Pagham subs, Jamie Carroll, returned a ball into the box
with interest and only some desperate last ditch defending which appeared to involve a hand from Hassocks denied the Lions on that occasion.
Next it was the turn of the cross bar to keep the Robins in the game. A wonderful passing move involving Jack Barnes, Olly Hambleton and Carroll ended with Langford smashing a first time shot against the woodwork.
Having completed 90 minutes on Saturday, Gault was by now starting look like he needed a lot of WD40 and a nice drop of Malbec.
Brad Sweetman withdrew his evergreen striker with Lewis Beebee taking Gault’s place and Beebee really should have scored after being released by Turner and rounding Broughton.
His effort into the empty goal lacked the requisite power and that allowed Nathan Da Costa to get back and clear.
The exertions of the past week looked like they were no catching up with even those players much younger than Gault as Hassocks began flagging in the final 15 minutes.
Harris had to make a strong save with his feet from Grant Radmore and Langford, Clarke and Morey all squandered one-on-ones.
The Robins deserved a consolation at the very least and they did eventually get that deep into the fourth minute of injury time.
Troak's run and pass found the outstanding Short who rifled into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.