What a difference 72 hours make for Hassocks as they bounce back to beat Pagham
What a difference 72 hours can make. Just three days after being hammered 6-2 away at Eastbourne Town, Hassocks ended Pagham’s unbeaten start to the season with a gritty 2-1 win at the Beacon.
Most of the drama was saved for the final 10 minutes, when two of the goals arrived and both sides squandered chances as the tie threatened to go either way.
The previous 80 minutes won’t be remembered as a classic. Opportunities were few and far between, not that anyone with home connections was complaining as dour fare meant that the Robins had given their best defensive performance of the campaign so far.
With a striker like Charlie Pitcher in their ranks, Hassocks know that if they can keep it tight at one end, then Pitcher has the quality to win them games at the other.
He scored both of the Robins goals, the first with a perfectly taken penalty and the second a poacher’s finish after a goalmouth scramble which sparked that madcap finale.
Hassocks were rarely troubled at the back until then. Last season’s number one Charlie Pugh answered the call to return between the sticks with Dave Carruthers and Conor Evento both struck down by injury.
Pugh could not have expected to have such a comfortable evening against a side who arrived in Mid Sussex as the division’s second-highest scorers, the goalkeeper pulling off only one save of note in the second half.
Dave John made one change from the side who suffered that weekend trouncing at the Saffrons.
Young Alfie Loversidge was rested to the bench with his place taken by former Burgess Hill Town youngster Josh Short.
Whilst Pitcher’s brace took the headlines, Short was outstanding. He covered every blade of grass, constantly won possession back for Hassocks and hardly wasted a pass. It was some full debut.
A rare defensive lapse from the Robins gave Pagham the opening chance of the game with 13 minutes played.
Grant Radmore found himself completely free at the far post and no more than three yards out from goal when Joe Bennett’s cross reached him but somehow, the burly Radmore contrived to put his glancing header the wrong side of the upright.
Nine minutes later and Jack Gardner hit a slicing through ball from right back which put Pitcher in.
The Hassocks striker took a touch to cleverly work some room away from the attentions of Joe Clarke, allowing him to pull an excellent save from Connor Kelly as the Pagham goalkeeper got down well to his left at full stretch.
It was another ball out of defence to Pitcher which earned Hassocks their spot kick two minutes later.
Dan Turner this time found Pitcher 30 yards out from goal. The striker still had plenty to do, meandering his way into the box where Dylan Jelley had a wobble to bring him to ground with a clumsy trip.
Pitcher dusted himself down and struck an excellent penalty low and hard into the bottom corner to give Hassocks the lead.
Jack Troak headed a Dave Crouch effort off the line as the first half entered its final five minutes.
Troak then proved his worth at the other end, playing a lovely through ball which left Jake Chadwick in a foot race with Kelly.
Both players arrived on the scene at the same time, Chadwick sliding in with a firm but fair tackle which resulted in the ball smashing against the post and away.
Into the second half and James Littlejohn headed an in-swinging corner over the bar at the near post before Pugh’s one save arrived midway through, a big one-on-one stop on the charge to deny Radmore.
Hassocks’ desperation to see out the win was highlighted when Pitcher started holding the ball in the corner on 82 minutes, a bold tactic if his intention was to try and keep it there for the next eight plus injury time.
Pagham certainly weren’t impressed. Their mood sunk even lower when the Robins earned a corner from this so-called negativity, Pitcher won the header to spark a melee in the box which he eventually ended by reacting quickest to fire past for Kelly for 2-0.
The Lions halved the deficit within two minutes through a brilliant 25 yard volley from substitute Jamie Carroll to set up a tense finish.
What you then don’t expect to see when defending a slender lead in stoppage time is your defender charging 60 yards up the pitch with the ball.
Will Broomfield was nearly rewarded for his bravery though as he exchanged passed with Jack Troak, resulting in Troak finding himself one-on-one with Kelly who made a superb double save.
That was in the 93rd minute. In the 95th, Crouch beat Pugh but not the upright as the ball cannoned to safety and in the 97th, Ash Hawkes found himself one-on-one but could only drag wide.
Hassocks: Pugh; Gardner, Turner, Broomfield, Whittingham; Littlejohn, Bant, Chadwick, Short, Troak; Pitcher.
Subs: Enitcknap (Chadwick 73), Bull (Littlejohn 77), Loversidge (Short 88), O’Leary, Beebee (unused).