Finally, some joy at the Beacon for Hassocks

Phil Wickwar
Phil Wickwar

Home hasn't been where the heart is for Hassocks after a run of just one game at the Beacon in their previous six fixtures but they returned there on Saturday to secure a 3-2 win against a spirited Broadbridge Heath side.

The Beacon became somewhat of a fortress in the second half of last season and that went a long way to securing the Robins place in the Premier Division for this campaign.

And in a division that is shaping up to be every bit as competitive from top to bottom this time around, home form could be the key to the Robins avoiding another season of struggle and desperation shoulder overlooking.

That was why the result pleased Phil Wickwar so much. "An important three points that we definitely deserved," the Hassocks joint manager said afterwards.

"We did exceptionally well after the break, particularly given the number of players missing and it was great to see another one of our youth team come on and not look out of place."

That was 16 year-old Jake Lindsey and he had a lively cameo, one driving run and cross in particular was impressive for its boldness, teeing up Michael Death for a chance to make the game safe that he squandered.

Lindsey can probably expect to be involved more in the coming weeks, especially after Phil Gault limped off after 25 minutes, looking visibly distraught at the prospect of missing out on a trip to Hastings United on Tuesday night.

Gault had made a lively start to the game before that, being just inches away from turning Charlie Pitcher's cross-cum-shot in and then testing former Hassocks youth goalkeeper Conor Evento in the Heath goal.

Evento's opposite number Nathan Stroomberg had to be sharp off his line to deny Devon Fender before Hassocks took the lead just before Gault's withdrawal.

It was a classic route one goal from the Robins, Stroomberg sending a pinpoint early ball to release Pitcher. Pitcher in turn squared to Gault who slid James Westlake in with the diminutive midfielder producing a great touch and finish.

Pithcher was enjoying his best game of the season and he was the architect of Hassocks' second just before the half hour mark, another run down the right ending with a cross to the far post where Bradley Bant had timed his run to perfection to arrive and defy his Hobbit-like stature with a bullet header.

Heath boss Steve Painter was understandably disappointed with that first half display but whatever he said at half time had the desired effect as the visitors flew out of the traps in the second half, forcing Stroomberg into two early saves and then pulling one back when a cross wasn't cleared and Darren Helsdown reacted quickest to score.

The Bears were beginning to roar now but Hassocks dug in with Josh Tuck, Jordan Badger, Tom Barnes and the returning Ashley Marsh in particular manning the defensive trenches gamefully.

Badger has benefited from a move to the left side of defence in recent weeks, allowing Hassocks to take advantage of his ability to play raking long passes across the pitch which is where their third of the afternoon came from.

Pitcher still had plenty to do when he latched on the perfect aerial ball down the pitch but he was cool, calm and collected to beat the advancing Evento with a deft lob.

That was a real blow to the Heath advance in search of a point and Hassocks really should have wrapped things up, the aforementioned Death chance fashioned by young Lindsey and then Death again squandered another opportunity after an Event save fell to him and he went for goal rather than picking the better option of the pass.

Heath did manage to set up a nervey final five minutes when a cross deflected off James Westlake with the loose ball falling between Stroomberg and Barnes to Zac Massey who guided home.

The visitors could not find a way to fashion an equaliser however leaving Hassocks to claim a big three points ahead of three tough matches at Hastings, Pagham and Horsham YMCA - all away from home again.

Hassocks: Stroomberg; Barnes, Marsh, Tuck, Badger; J Westlake, L Westlake, Broomfield, Bant; Gault, Pitcher.

Subs: Death, Benson, Lindsey (used)