Ten man Hassocks became the first side to take a point off Eastbourne United Association this season after an excellent battling performance in an entertaining 3-3 draw.
The Robins lost captain Ian Simpson to a harsh straight red card with just over 30 minutes played for dubiously denying a goal scoring opportunity but they came from behind twice more after that to earn a deserved draw thanks in part to two stunning saves from youth team goalkeeper Josh Green in the final ten minutes.
Green was deputising for the holidaying Jack Simpson and was one of nine players in Dave John’s starting line up under the age of 25, a stark contrast to the experience and guile that United possess and which saw them win Division Two and make the FA Vase semi finals last season.
Yet it was Hassocks who took the lead with just nine minutes played. Ellis Common advanced in trademark fashion down the right and his pull back was stepped over by Jamie Hillwood, leaving the enigmatic Dan Jacques to curl over visiting goalkeeper Adam Sargeant from 20 yards.
United showed the healthy Beacon crowd just why they had plundered 23 goals in 6 games so far this season as they laid siege to the Hassocks goal after that with a plethora of chances, eventually breaking through when Jason Taylor fired through a crowd of players from the edge of the box.
Simpson and Nick Pitcher did their utmost to contain the threat before the former picked up the first red card of his career in controversial circumstances, a shot squirming away from Green leading to Simpson pulling back Lucas Mann.
The United player went down as if he’d been hit by the Jack and Jill sniper but there was no doubting it was a penalty which was duly tucked away by Wes Tate - but whether Simpson deserved to see red was another matter, the general consensus being that Green would have gathered the lose ball before Mann reached it.
That could have been curtains for such a young side against opposition full of confidence but it was infact Hassocks who went up the other end and equalised within three minutes, Aaron Czech showing a deft touch around the corner to play Common in with the young right backs pace taking him clear to finish past Sargeant with aplomb for his first senior goal.
Two minutes later and United retook the lead and again it was the officials who came to the fore, a soft foul awarded against George Brown out on the Hassocks left with the resulting free kick headed home by Mann at the back post after Green appeared to be impeded.
Yet the ten men battled back, making it 3-3 six minutes after the restart, Brown releasing Nathan Miles who accelerated past his marker and his low cross was swept home by Czech who timed his run to perfection to meet it at the back post.
The game ebbed and flowed from that point on, United hitting a post after Jacques failed to clear his lines effectively, Dan Stokes firing just over after Miles somehow stayed on his feet during a foxtrot around the box and Mann defying the laws of physics to hook over from six yards with the goal gaping.
Jamie Hillwood had the chance to snatch the unlikeliest of victories for Hassocks in the 83rd minute but his header from substitute Luke Pearce’s teasing cross was straight at Sargeant.
Either side of that came Green’s heroics, firstly when he somehow managed to flick a volley over the bar when seemingly prone on the ground after a downwards header at the back post caused confusion in the box and then in the final minute, when he went full stretch to his left to push away a header that seemed destined for the far corner.
Those saves undoubtedly earned Hassocks a point which was no less than what they deserved for such a spirited showing with John now hoping that that will be the catalyst for a push up the Division One table.
Hassocks: Green; Common, Pitcher, I Simpson, G Brown; Czech, Stokes, Jacques, Hillwood; Miles, Johnson.
Subs: Pearce (Czech 68), John, Booth, R Wickwar (unused).
Starman: Nick Pitcher was a rock at the back but Josh Green’s two late saves mean he just shades it.