Hassocks win seven-goal thriller against East Preston
As the crowd filed out of the Lashmar following East Preston’s Premier Division game with Hassocks, one visiting supporter turned to a a home counterpart and said, “You get used to this supporting Hassocks.”
Yet even by the Robins’ high standards of ridiculousness, this was an extraordinary 90 minutes.
Hassocks went into the break 4-0 ahead and it is no exaggeration to say it could have been six or seven.
Only a combination of the woodwork and some superb shot stopping from Keelan Belcher in the EP goal prevented the Robins running up a cricket score.
By the time the full time whistle blew 45 minutes later, Hassocks had just about clung onto a 4-3 victory.
The Robins made two changes from Saturday’s defeat at Broadbridge Heath. Will Broomfield was on a cider tasting holiday in Cornwall while Josh Short missed out with a knee complaint.
George Brown and Harvey Enticknap came into the starting line up and both enjoyed fruitful evenings as they contributed three quarters of the visitors’ four goal first half haul.
Hassocks were on the front foot from the first whistle. Within four minutes, Belcher had pulled off the first of a series of saves when repelling Charlie Pitcher’s one-on-one after Craig Adams lost the flight of a long ball over the top.
Pitcher didn’t get the best connection on that effort as it hit one the numerous craters on a surface which resembled the moon in places.
Eight minutes later and Hassocks had cause to cheer the rather than bemoan the lumpy pitch as it played a part in the opening goal.
Jack Troak’s low pass from left to right should have been easy for James Frankling to clear but the ball spewed under the foot of the EP midfielder via a divot and straight into the path of Enticknap, who took a touch, steadied himself and drilled a shot across the advancing Belcher for 1-0.
It looked to all the world like Jake Chadwick had doubled the advantage on 16 minutes when he hit a powerful curler towards the top corner from outside the area, only for Belcher to somehow tip onto the crossbar at full stretch.
EP had their first chance of the game next and nobody was sure how they had failed to turn the ball home in a melee following a corner.
Frankling defied the laws of geometry by rattling the bar from three yards out, Brown blocked the follow up on the line and Hassocks eventually scrambled clear.
James Littlejohn was next to hit the woodwork when his looping header from an Enticknap cross dropped onto the frame of the goal.
Troak’s low cross then seemed certain to be converted by Pitcher at the back post, only for Belcher to appear from nowhere to block the shot at the expense of a corner.
From the resulting delivery, Hassocks scored their second. Bradley Bant floated the ball in and when Belcher couldn’t gather, Brown was on hand to place a volley low and hard through a crowd of bodies.
The right hand post was the next part of the woodwork to rattle. Troak was crunched from behind as he looked to meet Pitcher’s cross from the right, the ball rebounding from the tackle onto the upright and into the arms of the grateful Belcher.
Hassocks’ third came on 39 minutes when Bant played a lovely pass with the outside of his right boot to slip in Pitcher who guided past Belcher and Bant was again the architect of the fourth right on the stroke of half time when his free kick was met by Brown’s looping header as the centre back claimed his brace.
The first five minutes of the second half suggested it would follow the same pattern of the first, Belcher saving a James Littlejohn volley from point blank range after the striker had turned Cameron Lineham.
Straight from that save, EP broke to earn a free kick 10 yards inside the Hassocks half. The ball was tossed into the Robins’ box, where Jack Gardner was unfortunate to see his attempted clearance slice past Charlie Pugh and in.
60 seconds later and EP had a second. The lively Thaikay Davis-Day was held back by Dan Turner as the two chased down a ball in the box, giving Conor Bull the chance to beat Pugh from the spot.
The boisterous home crowd could smell a comeback. Hassocks to their credit dug in and managed the game well from that point on, playing some decent possession football in spite of the pitch which helped run the clock down.
As a result, it became a game of few chances. Troak was denied by Belcher twice and then a block on the line from Dave Matthews and Pugh turned a Bull effort around his near post with an outstretched leg.
EP’s third arrived with two minutes remaining and again it came from the spot. This time, Pugh pulled off a stunning stop from Bull’s penalty, only for the EP striker to react quickest and nudge home the rebound.
That set up a grandstand finish in which EP nearly snuck it with the final kick. Bull found himself charging through, only to be halted by a perfectly timed slide challenge from Turner as Hassocks held on.
Hassocks: Pugh; Gardner, Brown, Turner, Whittingham; Enticknap, Chadwick, Bant, Troak; Littlejohn, Pitcher.
Subs: Beebee (Littlejohn 78), Bull, Marshall, Hicks, Evento (unused).