There have been plenty of dire experiences served up by Hassocks on their visits to Gorings Mead down the years, but even by those low standards this was a terrible afternoon against a rampant Horsham YMCA.
Hassocks were 3-0 down inside of 20 minutes, 5-0 down at half time and it eventually finished 6-0, former Robin Phil Johnson adding that final insult in the last minute to complete his old club's misery after Spencer Slaughter was shown a straight red.
You have to go back to New Years Day 2010 to find the last time Hassocks suffered a six goal league reversal although that defeat at Three Bridges sparked a marked improvement, Dave John’s side going onto lose only three of their next 11 games. Mark Dalgleish and Phil Wickwar will be hoping this provides a similar wake up call.
“All the good work we’ve done in the last six weeks to haul ourselves away from the bottom was undone inside of 20 minutes today,” Wickwar said.
“We were naive at best. We’ve been caught out three times by exactly the same ball and the protection we offered to a youth team lad making just his second start in goal was absolutely non existent.”
It was hard not to feel sorry for that youth team lad, Ben John. He was picking the ball out of the net three times in the first 20 minutes and it could have been even more as YM missed two great opportunities and had another ruled out correctly for offside before they took the lead.
Sam Schaff rattled a post and Dan Evans should have done better with a free header but he could only head over. Those chances came after a weak Liam Benson effort was easily caught by Aaron Jeal in the YM goal.
It was Johnson who saw his header chalked off for offside but he didn’t have long to wait to get his account up and running, cutting in from the left in a fashion all too familiar to Hassocks supporters and finishing to open the scoring in the 12th minute.
That came from a long ball over the top and there was a sense of deja vu as Schaff took advantage of exactly the same situation not just once, not just twice, but twice inside of a minute.
The first came when he trapped the ball, turned and beat the stranded John and the second was a simple case of running onto the ball over the top and finishing, prompting one YM midfielder to turn to the Robins faithful and tell them it looked like they were in a long afternoon.
He wasn’t wrong; Evans again proving wasteful when he ballooned over when front and centre while Hassocks’ frustrations were beginning to boil over as early bookings arrived for Ashley Marsh, James Westlake and Charlie Pitcher.
John made a solid stop from Schaff but that proved to be in vain as Callum Donaghey was left completely free at the back post to head home for 4-0 from the resulting corner with 35 minutes on the clock.
Pitcher then had Hassocks’ best chance of the match but he could only hit Jeal’s post and a back pass from Tom Gilbert nearly resulted in what would have been a quote brilliant own goal. Schaff then completed his first half hat-trick three minutes before the break with a neat finish.
The second half at least resembled something of a contest, which enabled Wickwar to clutch some straws afterwards. “We got a response after the break and perhaps should have nicked a couple of goals with the chances we had.
“Maybe we were tactically wrong in the first half but sometimes too much is made about tactics and systems at this level, when really what we were missing was a bit of old fashioned application.”
Hassocks saw a free kick pushed onto the bar by Jeal and Pitcher again went close while at the other end, John pulled off a top drawer save to tip a Johnson effort onto the bar.
A goalless second half looked on the cards until Slaughter’s indiscretion left Hassocks to play out the final 15 minutes shorthanded, with Johnson eventually taking advantage of the extra space afforded to break through and side foot home in injury time for goal number six.
“Our fans have been brilliant over the last couple of seasons and I have to apologise to them as that was unacceptable today,” Wickwar added.
“We’ve got to put things right and that starts at training in the week and into Saturday against Loxwood. We owe them a performance now.”
Hassocks: John; Barnes, Marsh, Akehurst, Badger; J Westlake, L Westlake, Slaughter, Bant; Benson, Pitcher.
Subs: Dawson, Broomfield (used), Lindsey, Hillwood, Wickwar (unused)