Burgess Hill Town see off plucky Hassocks in Ann John Memorial Trophy

Jamie Hillwood has returned to Hassocks and scored in the Ann John Memorial Trophy match. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Jamie Hillwood has returned to Hassocks and scored in the Ann John Memorial Trophy match. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

They left it late, but Burgess Hill Town did eventually have enough to see off a plucky Hassocks performance and retain the Ann John Memorial Trophy.

Warren Mfula’s 88th minute strike was the final goal of a crazy encounter in which the Robins led twice against their higher division opponents before succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.

It was entertaining fare for the 297 in attendance who helped to raise a fantastic £1123 for St Peter & St James’ Hospice.

We really shouldn’t have been surprised though. Every time these local rivals meet, goals seem to flow freely with none of the five previous fixtures featuring less than four.

It took Hassocks just three minutes to get the party started on this occasion through Jamie Hillwood.

Hillwood has returned to the Beacon after leaving the club in 2017, a shrewd piece of business from Mark Dalgleish in the wake of Liam Benson and Jake Lindsey departing for Steyning Town and Horsham YMCA respectively over the summer.

Hillwood was a lively presence throughout although his strike did have an element of good fortune about it, a wicked deflection completely flummoxing young Mitch Bromage in the Hill goal.

Simon Wormwull’s side weren’t perturbed by that start and Max Miller, so often a thorn in Hassocks’ side during his Haywards Heath Town days, soon began terrorising the Robins defence.

He forced Josh Green into two early pieces of solid goalkeeper, the Hassocks number one having to push away a fierce free kick and then doing well to hold a goal bound effort after fine work from new Hill signing Andrew Briggs.

Another venomous effort from Miller was deflected over by the head of Alex Spinks before Briggs curled one just wide after collecting a clever layoff from Mfula.

Hill’s pressure eventually told when they were awarded a 21st minute penalty, giving Aaron Smith-Joseph the chance to level things up.

He couldn’t take it however, failing to get his spot kick on target, much to the delight of the home faithful.

With the mercury pushing 30 degrees still at gone 8pm, both sides headed for a water break on 26 minutes.

This was bad news for Hassocks as they seemed to lose a little bit of concentration during the stoppage, resulting in Hill equalising just four minutes after play resumed.

Smith-Joseph was the architect, making up for his penalty miss with a wicked ball into the box which the giant figure of Mfula guided home for his first goal in Hill colours.

Miller and Green’s intriguing battle continued with Green pulling off two more good stops from the Hillians striker.

At the other end, A Trialist had to be alert to cut out a clever Phil Johnson pass that might have sent Hillwood clear.

The final chance of the first half fell to former Hassocks favourite Pat Harding but he could only put his effort high over Green’s bar.

Both sides rang the changes at the interval and it was one of Hassocks’ substitutes who put them back into the lead within eight minutes of the restart.

Will Broomfield had already given Hill a warning of the danger he possessed, working some space with neat footwork before putting his subsequent effort off target.

Less than 120 seconds later he had the ball in the back of the net, capitalising on a defensive mistake to produce a cool and calm finish past Bromage for 2-1.

Green continued to earn his keep, denying Josh Short and Tom Cadman but there was nothing the Hassocks stopper could do to prevent Hill equalising again, Cadman smashing in an effort from distance that flew into the bottom corner.

Given the heat, both sides could have been forgiven had the game petered out for the final 30 minutes but to their credit, they continued to go hammer and tongs at each other.

Johnson went close to giving Hassocks the lead for the third time, only to be denied by an excellent save and it took some fine defending from the Trialist brothers to thwart the Robins captain again moments later.

At the other end, Mfula was proving to be equally effective and you sensed that if a winner was coming from somewhere, it would either be Hill’s new acquisition from Corinthian Casuals or Johnson.

In the end, it was the former who swopped to win it for the Hillians with just two minutes remaining, meeting a perfectly flighted pass from Dan Beck without breaking stride to head past the helpless Green.

Hassocks: Green; Blake, Mills, Jacques, Whittingham; Stokes, Spinks, Russell; Rowe-Hurst; Hillwood, Johnson.

Subs: Broomfield, Kublickas, Pitcher, Ransome, Badger, Bull, Littlejohn, Pople.

Burgess Hill: Bromage, Sargent, Cadman, Wilson, Donaghey, Trialist, Miller, Briggs, Mfula, Harding, Smith-Joseph

Subs: Bennett, Jonah, Trialist, Beck, Webster, Fowler, Short, Ridley