The new year began in the best possible way for Hassocks as they put in their finest performance of the season so far to win 3-0 away at Eastbourne United Association.
“Absolutely brilliant,” was the verdict of Phil Wickwar as the Robins made it three victories in a row for the first time since October 2013 thanks to a Michael Death strike and a Josh Hawkes brace.
“We hit the bar three times, missed four one-on-ones and had another disallowed for a tight offside call. It could have been six or seven.”
“Tactically we got it spot on and to do all that while leaving Dan Jacques and Tom Barnes on the bench, both of whom have been outstanding in recent weeks, shows that we are getting stronger.”
Stronger and more confident. As with any young side, confidence plays a huge part and the difference from how the side are playing and carrying themselves now compared to when they were on that concerning ten game winless run is marked.
The arrivals of James Westlake and Alex Harris at the start of December have undoubtedly boosted Hassocks as well, Westlake an energetic presence in the centre of the park who allows whoever his midfield partner is to get forward as evidenced here by Hawkes’ double while this was a third clean sheet in six games since Harris returned between the sticks.
All the noteworthy action of the first half came in the first 15 minutes as Hassocks started the game in a controlled frenzy which yielded three good opportunities, one goal ruled out and ultimately the opener from Death.
The striker could have given his side the lead inside the first couple of minutes but he headed over from an excellent Bradley Tighe cross and then the post got in the way after Phil Gault had produced a delightful pivot to drive into the box and unleash a powerful effort.
It was a combination of upright and linesman’s flag that was next to infuriate the Robins, Hawkes’ strong slide challenge allowing him to set up a stinging drive which cannoned off the woodwork to Gault who tapped home only for the goal to be chalked off for offside.
There was nothing either post nor linesman could do to interfere when Death gave Hassocks the lead however, some clever footwork creating space in which he struck a left foot shot past the helpless James Broadbent.
Jamie Hillwood had a golden opportunity to double the advantage shortly after the break but his one-on-one chip from a delightful Gault through ball drifted wide and then the dangerous Liam Baitup was equally wasteful at the other end as with time and space in the box he could only direct a shot straight at Harris.
That miss was punished on the hour mark when Hawkes opened his account for the afternoon, cheekily scoring through the legs of Broadbent after latching onto Death’s forward pass.
Hawkes added his second and Hassocks’ third five minutes later as Broadbent misjudged a right wing cross from Gault and with the United goalkeeper and his defender in a right tangle, the Robins captain reacted first to volley home.
Further chances came and went for the visitors; Hillwood firing another one-on-one straight at Broadbent with Hawkes suffering the same fate as he chased a first senior hat-trick and in the closing stages Westlake’s thumping volley ensured that the crossbar didn’t miss out on denying the Robins.
Hassocks: Alex Harris; Bradley Tighe, Ashley Marsh, Rowan Wallis, Luke Akehurst; Bradley Bant, Josh Hawkes, James Westlake, Jamie Hillwood; Michael Death, Phil Gault.
Subs: Jonno Melia (Death), Dan Stokes (Hawkes), Jack Wilkins (Hillwood), Dan Jacques, Tom Barnes (unused).
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!