A second 1-1 draw in the space of four days ensured Hassocks maintained their unbeaten start to the Southern Combination League season as they shared the spoils away at Shoreham.
While Saturday’s fine point at home to Horsham was based on a remarkable resilience in defence, this time the Robins could consider themselves a tad unlucky not to take a victory at what is traditionally one of their happier hunting grounds despite playing for all but the last quarter of an hour without a recognised striker.
Weekend scorer Nathan Miles missed out along with the equally dangerous Jamie Hillwood, forcing Hassocks into playing the mercurial Mark Price as a false 10 with the returning Kieran O’Callaghan doing a dominating job in midfield on what was his first appearance since mid-February.
The visitors just about shaded the first half, particularly when their midfield runners were allowed to break from deep while Shoreham looked dangerous from set pieces thanks in part to having a pool of giants to select from.
Despite the Musselmen’s height advantage, it was from a free kick of their own that Hassocks took the lead with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, enigmatic left back Dan Jacques gliding in unnoticed at the far post to meet Dan Stokes’ delivery with the most cultured of glancing headers.
Shoreham were quickest out of the blocks in the early exchanges of the second 45 although the Robins defence ensured that Reece Wickwar was largely forced into dealing with routine long range efforts.
They were dealt a blow on 55 minutes when Price felt his groin go in familiar fashion, leading to new signing from St Francis Rangers Luke Akehurst to take his place with Kieran O’Callaghan pushed into a lone forward role.
Hitting the home side on the break was seemingly Hassocks’ game plan after the enforced reshuffle and it looked like it would be enough to earn them the victory until Shoreham equalised in a manner that would have been all too recognisable to the traveling support.
You needed an abacus to keep track of how many goals the Robins conceded from set pieces last season and they were at it again here in the 88th minute, failing to deal with a high free kick into the box which was chested down allowing Melford Simpson to hold off a challenge and poke home.
Despite that blow Hassocks refused to throw in the towel and had three golden chances to retake the lead and the points back to the Beacon in the last throes of injury time, Stokes being denied by a fine save from a one-on-one before Nick Pitcher headed just wide from the resulting corner.
The other opportunity was perhaps the best of the lot, youth team striker Jack Wilkins on as a sub to play in Josh Hawkes whose effort was ruled out for offside.
There was nearly a late sting in the tale at the other end, Simpson finding his way through on goal but superb pressure from captain Ashley Marsh on his 450th Robins appearance ensured that Wickwar’s goal wasn’t troubled.
Hassocks: R Wickwar; Tighe, Marsh, Barnes, Jacques; Stokes, Hawkes, O’Callaghan, Pitcher, Bant; Price.
Subs: Akehurst (Price 55), Wilkins (Tighe 80), Wolfstrome, R Collins, Millis (unused).
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