Floodlight failure may have delayed the start of Hassocks' visit to Mile Oak on Wednesday night, but the light was still shining on their Sussex Senior Cup chances after a gritty 2-1 win over their Division One hosts, writes Scott McCarthy.
Four times this season the Robins had played in cup competitions and four times they had been eliminated at the earliest hurdle. Another unwanted piece of history was avoided with this victory as never behind had a Hassocks side lost every cup game in a season in senior football.
Mile Oak is a tough place to come at the best of times and its sloping pitch and bobbly surface seemed particularly sloping and bobbly on this occasion, leading to a game that was pretty poor fare for the watching masses.
Phil Wickwar said afterwards that it was "two moments of quality" that won the game for his side. He might have added that they were the only two moments of quality over 90 minutes that, had Oak made their dominance count, could been 120. A terrifying thought.
Then there was the floodlight problem which led to kick off being delayed by just shy of half an hour. Hassocks are no strangers to things going wrong with electricity having seen home games against Worthing United and an under 21 fixture against Rottingdean Village abandoned over the last couple of season due to problems with the Beacon lights, but even so an additional 30 minutes spent either warming up or in the the cramped confides of the tiny away changing rooms down the hill at the south end of the ground wasn't ideal preparation.
Hassocks made light of all that to take the lead inside of three minutes through Phil Gault's first of the season. The Robins record scorer was on a bit of a drought by his scoring standards having not netted since his 184th goal for the club at Eastbourne United back in mid April. Number 185 was a classic Gault strike, a rasping drive from a full 25 yards after good work from James Westlake.
They were ahead for a quarter of an hour before Oak showed why they missed out on promotion to the Premier Division last season by one place, Joe Benn finishing a neat move to pull the hosts level.
Oak were fortunate not to go down to 10 men just past the half hour mark when Spencer Slaughter turned over possession with a crunching tackle, retained the ball and got in on goal only to be hauled down by the last man for which remarkably only a booking came out.
Hassocks scored what turned out to be the winner five minutes before the break. Liam Benson found himself playing in a wider position than he'd occupied when netting twice in Saturday's win at AFC Uckfield Town but he proved to be equally dangerous from out on the left, delivering a cross that was met with a brilliant volley from Charlie Pitcher.
Unfortunately for Pitcher, Oak's goalkeeping stalwart Aaron Stenning pulled off an equally brilliant save; unfortunately for Stenning, marathon man James Westlake had come charging into the box and was on hand to tap the loose ball in.
Oak dominated the second half, a fact recognised by Hassocks defenders Alex Dawson, Josh Tuck and Jordan Badger all making the shortlist for the man of the match award, yet the hosts were unable to find a way through despite it looking at times that it was a case of when, rather than if they would score, and inflict the dreaded prospect of another 30 minutes of football in the process.
Wickwar was certainly pleased to be leaving Mile Oak with his side in the hat for round two. "Whenever I've come here with youth and reserve teams it's always been a tough place to come, we knew they would test us but we held strong."
"The players put a real shift in, that's three wins on the bounce now and it puts us in a good place before a vital league game against Littlehampton on Saturday"
Hassocks: Harris; Dawson, Tuck, Broomfield, Bant; J Westlake, L Westlake, Slaughter, Benson; Gault, Pitcher.
Subs: Hillwood, Death (used), Akehurst, Wilkins, Wickwar (unused)