Perhaps Hassocks should request their evening games kick off at 9pm from now on?
For the second Tuesday in succession, the Robins launched a dazzling second half comeback to take something from a game in which they came in at half time trailing 2-0 after a disjointed first half showing.
They simply weren't at the races in the opening 45 minutes at the Lashmar against a talented East Preston side who scored twice through Lucas Pattenden and Thomas Lyne.
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The previous weeks comeback win against Bexhill United in the Peter Bentley League Cup came about when Mark Dalgleish told his players to abandon their haphazard attempts at passing football in favour of going direct to utilise the pace of Phil Johnson, Liam Benson and James Littlejohn.
And it was another tactical adjustment that turned the game here and allowed Hassocks to leave with a share of the spoils.
Dalgleish abandoned 4-3-3 at half time in favour of 4-4-2 which put the Robins firmly in control although the introduction of their goal scoring saviour owed more to luck than design.
Dan Stokes was bought on early in the second half when the unfortunate Will Broomfield pulled a hamstring.
Stokes took full advantage of the opportunity, netting a brilliant brace in the final 10 minutes to earn his side a 2-2 draw.
Pattenden’s opener for EP had arrived after just three minutes, the wing back dancing past three Hassocks defenders before whipping a left footed effort past Josh Green and into the top corner.
The hosts had a plethora of chances to extend their lead. Ryan Quirke fired wastefully over, Dan Huet saw an effort well blocked by Broomfield and Jack Barnes shot wide.
The second goal arrived with 10 minutes of the half remaining. Quirke delivered a free kick to the far post where Lyne had far too much time and space to bring the ball down and fire a left footed volley in via the upright.
Hassocks made their shape change at the break and there were a couple of personnel changes as well ass Jordan Badger replaced Dan Jacques and young Joe Bull came on for Alex Spinks before Stokes’ pivotal entrance to the game.
As a result of Broomfield’s injury, Spencer Slaughter dropped into defence and he began pushing his side higher up the pitch.
That, coupled with the tireless work rate of the Robins front three began causing EP a world of problems and Hassocks spent most of the second half camped in the opposition half.
Despite their territorial and possession dominance, it took until the 80th minute for Hassocks to pull one back. A succession of big tackles from the Robins saw the ball fall to Stokes some 25 yards out who hit a dipping distance effort which left EP goalkeeper James Fernandes grasping at thin air.
That sparked a manic last 10 minutes. Slaughter plucked a ball out of the air with the grace of a gazelle before hitting a 40 yard diagonal ball over the top for Littlejohn to chase.
Littlejohn latched onto it and knocked it past Fernandes who then pole axed the Hassocks striker to concede a penalty and earn a straight red card.
EP sacrificed Quirke for substitute goalkeeper Leesun Donaldson and his first touch of the game saw him save Benson’s spot kick, much to the delight of the home crowd who must've thought it was going to be their day at that point.
Stokes had other ideas though and he equalised with just one minute of the 90 remaining, producing a deft touch to escape the attentions of Nathan Da Costa and then hitting a peach of a shot back across goal that went in off the post.
Player coach Slaughter said afterwards, “It's four wins and a draw from our last seven games now and it could easily have been more.”
“If we take the halves we are having here and there and turn it into a full game then we're going to be very difficult to play against.”
Hassocks: Green; Blake, Broomfield, Mills, Jacques; Spinks, Slaughter, Berridge; Littlejohn, Johnson, Benson.
Subs: Badger (Jacques), Bull (Spinks), Stokes (Broomfield).
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