Horsham YM 3, Hassocks 2: Wickwar - '˜It was an unreal effort'

Trips to Horsham YMCA are daunting enough for Hassocks at the best of times, so you can imagine everyone involved with the Robins was fearing the worst about making the short journey west missing eight first choice players.

Monday, 31st October 2016, 10:10 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:00 am
Mark Price. Hassocks FC. Picture by Phil Westlake SUS-160720-104456001

Two league wins in 24 years at Gorings Mead is a record that hardly inspires confidence and being without the suspended duo of Ashley Marsh and Josh Hawkes as well as Phil Gault, Tom Barnes, Jordan Badger, Nathan Miles, Bradley Tighe and Jamie Hillwood made an already tough task look even harder.

That they were only denied a point thanks to a Max Howell goal with 10 minutes remaining was a remarkable achievement against a side who would expect to be challenging for the title come the end of the season.

“I don’t want to talk about the absentees, but rather the players that were here today,” Phil Wickwar said afterwards. “Nick Pitcher made his first start in nine months and I’ve never seen someone play with so much strapping on.

“He gave everything and I really felt for him at the end. Likewise Mark Price who played even when he shouldn’t have. He is now in bits and still didn’t want to come off when we eventually made the decision he’d done too much on the hour mark.”

“Ben Bacon moved a flight to Dubai to the evening so he could play. Then the poor lad gets smashed by the goalkeeper and has a quick fire trip to A&E. The goalkeeper only gets a yellow and it looks like Ben will be out for a while with a bad injury.”

“It was an unreal effort by us today and the lads deserved a lot of praise for the way they represented the club. Our efforts were enough for a point but in truth YMCA were the better side, as they should be.”

Price clearly hadn’t read the script of ‘Hassocks never play well at Gorings Mead’ as he put the Robins into the lead inside the opening 20 minutes.

YM looked all at sea across the back line in those opening exchanges and the diminutive midfielder took full advantage, playing a one-two on the edge of the box before letting one go.

That initial effort was saved by Lewis Blaney but Price had continued his run through after taking the shot and was on hand to follow up by rolling into the back of the net.

Lewis Westlake doubled the Robins lead five minutes later with his first senior goal for the club, a crisp shot that flew straight into the bottom corner via the slightest of deflections.

So far so good. But then a familiar face hauled YM back into the game before half time. In a youth system that has produced plenty of quality players down the years, Phil Johnson remains one of the best to come off the Robins production line and he showed that with an opportunistic brace.

Firstly, a low cross from the left wasn’t dealt with, allowing Johnson to sweep home from close range and then in first half injury time he took advantage of some loose passing across the back line to steam in on goal and finish in trademark style.

It took a herculean effort from the Robins to keep YM at bay for the majority of the second half with two of the highlights been a superb clearance off the line from Harry Mills and then a quite spectacular penalty save from the visitors man-of-the-match James Broadbent to deny Johnson his hat-trick.

Hassocks had a great chance to grab a third on the counter but Michael Death took the wrong option when he could have sent James Westlake in on goal.

That miss was punished late on after a dangerous set piece was only half cleared, allowing Howell to drill home through a crowd of players to ensure it was yet another fruitless trip to YM for Hassocks.

Hassocks: Broadbent; Mills, Pitcher, Akehurst, Bant; Price; J Westlake, L Westlake; Bacon; Benson, Death.

Subs: Russell (Price), Avram (Bacon), Bradley, Ross, P Wickwar (unused).

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