Hassocks barren run in national cup competition continues

Hassocks manager Mark Dalgleish
Hassocks manager Mark Dalgleish

It will be at least another season before Hassocks end their barren run in national cup competitions after they were eliminated from the FA Vase at the hands of K Sports.

The Southern Counties East side triumphed 2-0 at the Beacon on Saturday to complete a clean sweep for that particular league when it comes to the Robins' hopes of Wembley or even just some decent prize money after the Paperboys' Kent compatriots Erith Town had knocked Hassocks out of the FA Cup at the Extra Preliminary Qualifying Round stage in the second week of the season.

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All that means that the Robins are now without a win in national knockouts since triumphing 3-1 against Corinthian in the first round of the Vase in 2014.

Only three players from that day were in the Hassocks starting line up here and remarkably two of those were making their second debuts for the Robins.

Enigmatic fan favourite Dan Jacques was handed his first Hassocks start since February 2016 at centre back after two seasons with Lindfield in which he helped the Swans lift virtually every trophy going in the Mid Sussex.

Ryan Collins meanwhile left the Beacon in late 2015, enjoying spells at AFC Varndeanians and Ringmer since. He started in central midfield and clearly made a big impression on the home faithful if his showing in the supporters Man of the Match poll was anything to go by.

There weren't just two new-old faces either. Mark Dalgleish handed a full debut to Harvey Enticknap following an encouraging start to life in the Robins under 23 squad. Enticknap in the process became the 300th player to represent the club since the move to the Beacon in 1992.

Despite the three enforced changes, Hassocks could and probably should have taken the game into extra time at least.

The Robins were the better side for the most part, dominating large periods of the game without ever managing to convert one of their numerous chances.

That will at least provide encouragement to Dalgleish given that their opponents were no slouches. They'd already taken Pagham, one of the favourites for the Southern Combination League title, to a replay in the FA Cup and had made a solid start to their first ever season in the Southern Counties Premier Division after finishing Division One runners up last time out.

What will concern the Hassocks coaching staff on this showing however is the way in which the Robins couldn't quite see out each half defensively.

Both of Sports' goals came in the last five minutes of either half, the first arriving just one minute before the break and the second with two minutes of normal time remaining.

Liam Benson had one good chance saved low down by Paperboys' keeper Henry Lovering and a Matt Berridge free kick set off a game of ping pong in the box with Jack Wilkins' deflected effort falling gratefully into the hands of Lovering in Hassocks' two best chances of the first half.

Then came that sucker punch as James Alderman gave the visitors the lead right on the stroke of half time.

Supporters of the Robins have seen their team concede just before the break and then follow that up with a nightmare start to the second half but they avoided that fate here as Hassocks again showed plenty of intent through the hardworking Phil Johnson.

Sports' most likely route to a second looked to be from set pieces and Alex Harris had to be alert to save down to his left after a low corner was volleyed goalwards and he then made a solid stop with his feet after another corner wasn't convincingly cleared.

In between those two Harris saves, Blake came close to opening his account for the club when he went bombing forward from right back and rounded the goalkeeper but the angle was against him and his effort was hacked off the line when all it required was the touch of a Hassocks player to poke it in.

There was one moment of outrageous skill from Sport's James West when he produced a perfect bicycle kick after yet another corner wasn't dealt with but his powerful effort cannoned off the crossbar.

It was Matt Gething who made the game safe for the visitors with two minutes remaining but that wasn't the end of the drama as there was still time for Sports' Tom Carr to be dismissed late on.

Hassocks: Harris; Blake, Mills, Jacques, Badger; Collins, Enticknap, Berridge; Wilkins, Benson, Johnson.

Subs: Bull, Littlejohn, O'Leary (used).