Midweek football: Heath make it five straight wins, Hassocks lose

Nathan Cooper, in action against South Park in the FA Cup, scored against Eastbourne United. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj
Nathan Cooper, in action against South Park in the FA Cup, scored against Eastbourne United. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Haywards Heath contoinued their perfect start to the season with a 2-0 win over Eastbourne United in the Peter Bentley Challenge Cup, but Hassocks lost 1-0 to Bexhill United after extra time.

Hassocks 0, Bexhill United 1 (aet) - by Scott McCarthy

August hasn't even reached its conclusion yet and already Hassocks have been eliminated from three of the five knockout competitions they are entered in following Tuesday nights 1-0 defeat at home to Bexhill United.

The extra time defeat to their Division One opponents ended their Peter Bentley League Cup dreams just three days after another loss over 120 minutes to AFC Uckfield Town. Both of those games were eminently winable, certainly more so than the tie that resulted in their elimination from the FA Cup against Hollands and Blair on the opening weekend.

Seasoned Hassocks watchers approach any game with lower division opposition with a sense of trepidation. In the last nine seasons, the Robins have gone out of various competitions nine times to teams plying their trade in Division One at the time - Rustington, East Preston, Seaford Town, Southwick, Little Common, Littlehampton Town and Steyning Town. Bexhill are now on the list twice having knocked Hassocks out of the Sussex Senior Cup as well when these two last met.

Much like on that cold October eve three seasons ago at the Polegrove, Hassocks had the majority of the ball with the Pirates content to pillaging on the counter attack.

They were rather effective at this, earning a free kick early on which struck the chin of Josh Hawkes in the Hassocks wall. At the other end, visiting goalkeeper Dan Rose was in inspired form and he produced two excellent saves to keep out efforts from the Robins front pairing of Nathan Miles and Michael Death.

Rose also denied Spencer Slaughter and Dan Stokes but in all spite of all that the best bit of goalkeeping of the half came at the other end, where Nathan Stroomberg marked his home debut for Hassocks with a brilliant penalty stop, diving full length to his right to push away Craig Ottley's spot kick right on the stroke of half time.

The chances continued to flow in the second half. Kyle Holden denied Miles a sight of Rose's goal with a last ditch tackle, Stroomberg produced another excellent stop from a Wayne Giles header and then Slaughter saw a header of his own cleared off the line by Craig McFarlane.

That represented the last chance of the 90 and so for the second time in a week, Hassocks were forced into playing an additional 30 minutes. They had plenty of options from the bench with Lewis Westlake, Harry Mills and Liam Benson all being introduced.

Those fresh legs didn't matter though as the Robins were caught alarmingly cold at the start of extra time with Corey Wheeler finding it far too easy to finish off a fine individual effort which gave Bexhill the lead.

The Pirates were all too happy to sit back after that and although Hassocks had plenty of the ball they couldn't find anyway of parting the white sea that stood between them and an equaliser.

The closest they got was when Benson met an excellent cross with a thumping ahead that rattled the bar rather than the back of the net as the Pirates closed the game out to sail into round three.

Hassocks: Stroomberg; Akehurst, Barnes, Badger, Marsh; Stokes, Hawkes, Slaughter, Bant; Miles, Death.

Subs: Benson, Mills, L Westlake (used), Maskell, Harris (unused).

Haywards Heath Town 2, Eastbourne United 0 - by Stuart Morgan

Haywards Heath team made it five wins on the bounce as they saw off a lively Eastbourne Utd team at Hanbury.

Manager Shaun Saunders made two changes to the starting line up from Saturdays Emirates FA Cup victory, Joel Daly returned to the starting line up with Max Miller moving to lead the line once again, George Fenton made his first competitive start for the club at right back. Tom Graves returned to the bench after missing out on Saturday due to injury and was joined by Kane Louis, who was again available for selection.

Previous games with Eastbourne Utd had always produced good free flowing football with both sides looking to get the ball down and play and tonight was no exception. Early exchanges saw both sides threaten the each other’s goal but it was Heath who broke the deadlock on 9 minutes as Balilie Rogers did well on the left before fizzing a ball in high across the 6 yrd box the seemed to flick off several players before younger brother Alfie Rogers got the final flick that took the ball into the back of the net.

The game continued to flow well with Eastbourne Utd defending several Heath corners well, Max Miller was next to come closest as he did brilliantly to work some space but his strike clipped the outside of the post. Eastbourne Utd responded but good defending at the back from Omar Bukleb and Nathan Cooper blocked a good strike on goal.

In the 19th minute it was a what if moment as the ball fell to the edge of the Eastbourne Utd area and Karly Akehurst caught the bouncing ball perfectly, it seemed to be heading towards the top corner but for the unfortunate Joel Daly that it smashed on the back.

Max Miller continued to cause the Eastbourne Utd back line problems as his running and persistent work rate created him chances, in the 24th minute his strike was just over the top and then yet more good defending saw a strike well blocked.

Eastbourne Utd were fining it frustrating in the final third as they struggled to break the back line of Heath down, both full back George Fenton and Bailie Rogers were dealing with the pacey attacks that the visitors possessed. George Hayward was having a superb game in the middle and his work rate and solid partnership with Karly Akehurst was really hurting Eastbourne Utd.

With just under 10 minutes remaining of the half Alfie Rogers went close with a good strike from 18 yards and brother Bailie saw an effort again well blocked. Nathan Cooper went close to extending Heath’s lead just before the break when he rose to meet a corner but his looping header although beat the keeper was well covered on the line and headed clear.

The first card of the half came just on the stroke of half time and was for an Eastbourne Utd player who’s foot met George Fenton’s neck, several minutes of stoppage happened as George Fenton needed a new shirt void of blood, the card was slightly harsh as although foot was high George was stooping for a header it did however set the tone of yellow cards to come in the second half.

The second half was just 4 minutes old when Heath extended their lead Jamie Weston sent in a corner from the right and the big centre half Nathan Cooper out jumped his marker and powered his header past the Eastbourne Utd keeper and defenders on the line.

Eastbourne Utd had obviously been told to up their game at half time unfortunately as the physical side increased so did the stoppages and flow of yellow cards. Jamie Weston went close on 60 minutes but a fine save down to his left stopped the ball from hitting the net and Max Miller was unlucky to see the ball just evade him as it as it came back out.

Heath made their first change of the game on 63 minutes with the hard working Max Miller being replaced by Kane Louis.

A minute later Eastbourne Utd saw their best chance well cleared, the ball was past Simon Lehkyj but some brilliant cover on the line saw the ball safely cleared away.

More free kicks and cards followed for the visitors with a couple of challenges worthy of an ‘orange card’ if there was such a thing as the referee tried to keep the game under control. Kane Louis saw his free kick deflected off the wall and away to safety and Jamie Weston couldn’t add to his fine goal tally so far this season as he saw a strike go wide.

Heath’s second substitution saw Bailie Rogers make way for Luc Doherty in the Heath back line.

With 77 minutes played it was another good save by the Eastbourne Utd keeper low down to his right from Kane Louis, Alfie Rogers collected the loose ball but the keeper did brilliantly to react and save a certain goal from just 2 yards out.

Eastbourne Utd still pressed for a way back into the game but a connected header from a corner saw the ball drift harmlessly wide.

With 10 minutes to play Joel Daly picked up Heath’s first yellow card of the night which seemed harsh on the player having turned his back on the Eastbourne Utd player clearing the ball.

Alfie Rogers was then cynically taken out of which earned the Eastbourne Utd substitute a yellow, as he tried to pick Alfie up Alfie pushed the player in the stomach from a sitting position, this earned Alfie a yellow card but more embarrassing was how the Eastbourne Utd player choose to go down holding his head, at any level it is not acceptable and this was poor from a side that can certainly play football.

The Yellow Card was then to haunt Alfie Rogers as with 3 minutes remaining he ran across the clearing defenders path on the half way line who went down as his follow through connected with Alfie, the referee saw this punishable by way of a second yellow and Rogers was sent from the game.

The Final chance of the match fell to the visitors but the composure was lacking as the ball was fired over the bar with Simon Lehkyj happy to watch the ball go to safety.

Man of the Match – George Hayward – Engine in the heart of the pitch that caused problems all night for the visitors

Manager Shaun Saunders said: “Delighted with the win, I love a good cup run and it also is important that we continued our good start to the season.”

Heath will face the winners of Billingshurst Vs Wick in the third round.