Ten-man Hassocks hold out for creditable draw with Lingfield
Perhaps Brad Sweetman should consider telling his Hassocks side to go down to 10 men after 35 minutes every week?
For the second time in the space of 48 August bank holiday hours, the Robins came away with something to show for their efforts despite having to play for over an hour with a numerical disadvantage.
This 1-1 Monday morning draw against Lingfield achieved despite Connor Bradley’s first half red card followed hot on the heels of Saturday’s 2-0 win over Steyning Town when Luke Marshall was sent off for an early bath, almost to the same minute.
That means that of the five points Hassocks have garnered in 2021-22 under Sweetman, four have come from matches they have played the majority of with less players.
Whereas Hassocks scored both their goals against Steyning whilst down to 10, they were already leading Lingfield when Bradley was dismissed.
Confidence was clearly high in the home camp following the Saturday win and that translated into a fast start, Alfie Loversidge giving Hassocks the lead with only six minutes on the clock.
Everything good that the Robins do at the minute comes through Loversidge and his midfield partner Josh Short, a duo who are producing fearless performances which defy their tender years and inexperience.
They were both involved in the goals which defeated Steyning, Short playing a killer pass to send George Mitchell-Phillips away for the first and then doing likewise to release Loversidge, who earned the penalty which Mitchell-Phillips tucked away for the second.
Short’s assist against Lingfield saw him showcase another side to his game other than his astute range of passing.
He weaved his way down the right, reaching the by-line as Lingfield appealed for an offside before pulling a low cross back into the path of the onrushing Loversidge who arrived in the box to apply the finish.
It has been some time since Hassocks possessed a genuine goal scoring midfielder. With three goals in eight games so far, Loversidge is relieving a lot of pressure on a side who lost top scorer Charlie Pitcher to Crawley Down Gatwick in the summer.
Games between Hassocks and Lingfield are rarely for the faint of heart - Pitcher saw red in the last Supplementary Shield meeting between the two in April - and some pretty meaty challenges began flying in from both sides as the first half wore on.
The Lingers mood was not improved by a controversial incident on 21 minutes when James Allen went down in the box. The visitors wanted a penalty but referee Robert King had other ideas and instead awarded Hassocks a free kick.
Less than 60 seconds earlier and Dave Heaton had placed a towering header over the bar for Lingfield when he should have at least hit the target.
Bradley’s red card did little to calm things down, even if it was more mistimed than malicious. The Hassocks midfielder knew he had erred and left the field to little complaint.
Lingfield’s Tyler Cox picked up a yellow on the stroke of half time and that physicality continued into a heated second half.
Hassocks may have the youngest side in the Premier Division by some distance but they are no shrinking violets.
They gave as good as they got although you had to wonder how much the battle was taking out of them as the second half continued, especially having played for so long against Steyning with only 10 men as well.
Unsurprisingly, Lingfield grew in dominance and it was not really a surprise when they levelled things up on 77 minutes.
It was a goal similar to the one scored by Hassocks, a midfield runner escaping down the right channel to deliver a ball into the box which Jamie Bakhit smashed past Alex Harris in the Hassocks goal.
The last 10 minutes became like the Alamo as Lingfield threw everything they had at the Robins in the search for a winner.
That the visitors had to settle for heading back to Surrey with only a point for their efforts was largely because of the work of Harris, making the first appearance of his fifth different spell at Hassocks.
Harris was last seen in this parish in the 2018-19 season.
With Charlie Pugh’s availability sporadic, Sweetman has sought out Harris to provide another option in the goalkeeper ranks and based on his showing against Lingfield, that looks like being an inspired decision.
Harris was a commanding presence and the young defence in front of him certainly seemed to benefit from his organisation. He pulled off several smart saves too when called into action.
The Lingers themselves played out the final five minutes with 10 men, minutes after an injury struck and they had used all three if their permitted substitutions.
Hassocks though remain the masters at playing shorthanded.