There was entertainment aplenty for those Robins fans who made the long trek east to Rye on Saturday when Mickey Jewell’s men came away with a point from a hard-fought 3-3 draw.
The result maintained Hassocks’ remarkable record against Rye which now reads only two defeats in 16 league meetings between the two.
An horrific fixture backlog brought about through the weather and another good showing in the FA Vase has led to the home side having played eight games less than the Robins. Despite sitting in eighth place at the end of the day, they were only nine points adrift of faltering leaders Peacehaven with two games in hand and clearly still right in the title race.
Having parted company with boss Scott Price, who led them to RUR Cup glory and a third place finish last season, they also had an added incentive in trying to prove a point to new managers Mark Gall and Anthony Storey. That made an already tough looking challenge even harder for the Robins.
Anthony Hibbert was restored to the starting line up after injury and captain Stuart Faith and Kieran O’Callaghan were also available after missing the midweek bore draw with Dorking Wanderers.
It was Hassocks who had the better of the opening exchanges and they took the lead with 18 minutes on the clock.
Phil Gault was the man on target as the County League’s top scorer beat the offside trap (and the inevitable protests from the home side) to open the scoring with his 28th goal of the season.
The lead lasted just five minutes, however, before Rye grabbed an equaliser when the enigmatic Matt Maclean netted. Nathan Miles put a barren run of form behind him by restoring the lead on the half hour. It was relief for the gifted striker who had scored just one goal from eight appearances since the turn of the year.
Again though Rye fought back to level the scores as the in-form Maclean netted his second of the afternoon with a delightful lob over visiting keeper Simon Lehkyj.
Maclean had the chance to complete a hat-trick after the break from the penalty spot but saw his effort ricochet back off the underside of the crossbar. That miss was punished minutes later when Gault finished with aplomb for his second of the afternoon to put Hassocks ahead for the third time in the game.
But as befitted an encounter that ebbed and flowed all afternoon, Rye came back again to score the final goal of the game in the 65th minute through a powerful drive from former Brighton youngster Liam Upton. Both teams had chances after that to claim all three points but in the end a share of the spoils was just about the right result.
Hassocks: Lehkyj; South, Marsh, Faith, Butler; Westlake, O’Callaghan, Hibbert, Weston; Miles, Gault. Subs: Bryant and Brown (used), Maynard (unused).
In the reserves clash between the same two clubs at the Beacon, Neil Kane hit an 85th minute equaliser to preserve Hassocks’ unbeaten record this season. Laurence Robinson had put them ahead on 35 minutes but Rye struck twice after the break.