Hassocks 2, Eastbourne Town 1: The Beacon fast becoming a fortress for Hassocks

Phil Gault. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Phil Gault. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

The Beacon is fast becoming one of those places that no team in the Southern Combination Football League will relish a trip to.

After knocking off leaders Shoreham with that magnificent 4-1 victory 11 days previously, Hassocks followed up by claiming another top six scalp as Eastbourne Town were defeated 2-1 – the Robins first victory over Town for a decade.

Three players remain from that side that shocked the champions elect 4-0 back in April 2007 – Ashley Marsh, Spencer Slaughter and Phil Gault.

And it was Gault who was summoned from the substitute’s bench to score both Hassocks’ goals in a victory that joint boss Phil Wickwar was left purring about.

“It was a decent game for a big crowd and another great three points against one of the divisions better sides” he said afterwards.

“We started with four players under the age of 21. How many clubs would do that in a relegation battle?” Being able to bring on three subs of the quality of Gault, Slaughter and Bradley Bant helped us.”

And being able to call on a goalkeeper of the quality of James Broadbent was a pretty big help as well.

Broadbent saved his fourth penalty of the season, a quite brilliant stop with his legs from Daniel Bolwell while he pulled off two even better saves – one in each half – to deservedly take the man-of-the-match award against one of his former clubs.

Hassocks looked as though they would be in for a tough opening 45 minutes as they defended a vicious gale whipping its way towards the railway end of the ground but credit to the back four of Luke Akehurst, Tom Barnes, Jordan Badger and Marsh as they navigated it expertly.

In James Westlake and Jack Rowe-Hurst, the Robins had two relentless runners who caused some real problems as the game ebbed and flowed, the latter’s ability to marauder cuttingly through the visitors defence nearly being rewarded when he clipped the outside of the post with Grant Nessling in the Town goal rooted to the spot.

Town looked more of a threat in an attacking sense with the winds assistance and looked particularly dangerous from set pieces of which they had a plethora.

When it comes to Hassocks, ‘dangerous from set pieces’ normally translates itself into goals yet here were a Robins side doing things that have appeared alien to them at times over the course of the past couple of seasons such as marking and clearing.

That solid work at the back laid the foundation for the enigmatic Gault’s entry into the game in place of February Player of the Month Michael Death on the hour mark and he immediately began to cause havoc up front with Liam Benson.

It took Gault just a matter of minutes to open his account for the afternoon. A great passing move down the Robins right eventually set Benson away and his low cross was composedly converted on the second attempt by the Robins top scorer at the far post.

Benson was equally busy at the other end, him being the man who conceded the penalty after a clumsy yet ultimately weak looking challenge bowled Bolwell over but justice was done when the same player was denied by Broadbent.

That moment of magic from Broadbent galvanised Hassocks and they went close when Rowe-Hurst was marginally over and Badger sent a powerful header from a set piece just the wrong side of the post.

The goal was coming and eventually it arrived from the penalty spot. Benson atoned for his conceding of a spot kick by winning one for the Robins after he was upended in the box and Gault sent Nessling the wrong way to net with aplomb into the right hand corner.

Town finally found a way past Broadbent and his back four as the game ticked into a staggering 12th minute of stoppage time when Evan Archibald popped up with a header.

Nerves among the Hassocks players and faithful began to become a little shredded at that point but it was a case of too little, too late for Town as moments after the restart the game was finally bought to a close and with it another excellent home three points were in the bank for the Robins.

Hassocks: Broadbent; Akehurst, Barnes, Badger, Marsh; J Westlake, Mills, L Westlake, Rowe-Hurst; Death, Benson.

Subs: Gault, Slaughter, Bant (used), Tighe, Wilkins (unused).