Plenty of Halloween spirit for Hassocks, but they exit Senior Cup

Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Picture by PW Sporting Photography

There was plenty of Halloween spirit on show at the Pilot Field for Hassocks' Sussex Senior Cup second round tie at Hastings United.

The hosts had carved pumpkin lanterns in the boardroom while the Robins got into the swing of things by giving their Bostik League opponents a real fright on the pitch.

Hassocks celebrate their goal. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

Hassocks celebrate their goal. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

The record books will show that this first ever meeting in senior football between the two sides ended 3-1 to United but that was a scoreline that was harsh on Hassocks.

"We matched them all the way and carved out some decent chances," Phil Wickwar said afterwards. "You just have to look at their team sheet to see that they have real quality so we can take a lot of heart for this for the remainder of the league season."

Yes, Hassocks now only have the league to concentrate on. But more performances like this should ensure that they continue their recent climb up the Southern Combination Premier Division table.

They shocked the home crowd by going ahead inside of 15 minutes through James Westlake, the Hassocks captain sliding in to meet a cross from brother Lewis Westlake for his third goal in his last six appearances since switching to the right wing.

It's been a frustrating season for United so far. They saw Adam Hinshelwood depart as manager for Worthing in September just three months into the three year contract he had signed in the summer and quite a few of the home faithful seemed to have turned up expecting this to be a walk in the park.

If the early goal hadn't been enough of an indication that that wouldn't be the case, then Ollie Rowe's brilliant last ditch challenge being all that stood between Charlie Pitcher and a clear sight of goal left no illusions that Hassocks weren't here to simply make the numbers up.

The home support grew increasingly frustrated with their team after that thanks to the combination of some truly ghastly finishing and the excellence of Nathan Stroomberg in the Hassocks goal.

Tom Vickers fired just over and Davide Rodari couldn't have had a chance served up on any more of a plate had it been given to him by Gordon Ramsay but he somehow managed to not even hit the target from Kenny Pogue's cross.

Pogue in particular would end up having something of a horror show in front of goal. The tone for his evening was set whe he missed a gilt edged header and was then denied by Stroomberg; with even worse was to come for Pogue in the second half.

By that point, United were level. The equaliser arrived five minutes before the break when Hassocks failed to clear their lines and Sam Cruttwell took advantage to produce a close range finish while Stroomberg pulled off a breathtaking stop from Rodari to ensure parity remained at the break.

Hassocks were dealt a blow when Josh Tuck limped out of the action with Luke Akehurst on and minutes after that Pogue produced the miss of the evening - which really is saying something - when he contrived to hit the post from a yard out with the goal at his mercy.

Pitcher was beginning to look lively now at the other end and he hit a shot straight at Louis Rogers when well placed and was again frustrated by the excellent Rowe, the United defender this time cutting out a pass that would've put Bant in.

United took the lead just past the hour mark, Will Broomfield producing a wild lunge on Rodari with the same player dusting himself down to convert the resulting penalty.

Stroomberg produced another excellent stop from Adam Lovatt and Hassocks poured forward after that, introducing both Liam Benson and Jake Lindsey from the bench in the search of an equaliser.

That was always likely to leave them susceptible to the counter and that is where United's killer third came from on 81 minutes, Ansu Janneh firing off a shot which hit the unfortunate Tom Barnes and trickled past the helpless Stroomberg.

Hassocks: Stroomberg; Barnes, Tuck, Broomfield, Badger; J Westlake, L Westlake, Slaughter, Bant; Death, Pitcher.

Subs: Akehurst, Benson, Lindsey (used).