Hassocks' best possible tribute to former skipper

Michael Death
Michael Death

A week after the shock passing of Chris "Jack" Hewitt, Hassocks paid the best possible tribute with a 2-1 victory away at Chichester City and a performance that had all the hallmarks of their popular former captain.

Battling qualities, organisation, defensively solidity and the ability to give bigger clubs with much larger budgets a real fright were what the Hassocks sides that Jack played in were known for and all those qualities were on show here as the Robins effectively ended Chi's slim hopes of winning a first Southern Combination League title since 2004 while moving themselves outside of the relegation zone for the first time in over a month.

If the performance reflected Jack's career, then he'd have been delighted with the makeup of the side as well. Past and present Hassocks players like Spencer Slaughter, Ashley Marsh, Joel Harding and Terry Gacias were glowing in their praise of the difference that Jack made to young players coming into the side, making the transition from under 18s and reserve team football that much easier.

He'd take them under his wing and help each and every one make the most of their potential. He'd have loved the youthful exuberance on show at Oaklands Park with no less than seven youth team graduates and six players under the age of 21 - not that you could tell against a Chi side packed with experience and quality.

The first half was an even affair with very little goalmouth action. Haig Kingston was called into action to deal with a couple of crosses into the box as Chi looked to make the most of the huge height advantage that they had over the Robins and he also made two saves low down that were not as comfortable as they looked due to the bobbly surface.

At the other end, Jake Lindsey was again Hassocks' biggest threat and he beat two men down the left wing only to see his cross just avoid Michael Death while George Galbraith-Gibbons phenomenal workrate saw him pick the pocket of the Chi defence as they tried to play out from the back but his effort was blocked for a corner.

Hassocks were the dominant side in the second half with Death causing Chi real problems. It was his rasping drive that forced the Chi goalkeeping into a brilliant tip onto the bar, his snapshot after a flowing move through Bradley Bant, Lindsey and Galbraith-Gibbons that produced another fine stop and finally his crisp low finish that gave the Robins the lead on the hour mark.

Death was also the architect of Hassocks' second which arrived 10 minutes later, playing a delightful ball which sent Galbraith-Gibbons away who's effort evaded the Chi keeper and nestled into the bottom corner.

Chi appeared shellshocked at finding themselves 2-0 down against a side who started the day 36 points behind them but Hassocks couldn't take full advantage by adding a third, Lindsey finding the side netting after riding a couple of challenges when he perhaps should've squared to the well placed Galbraith-Gibbons while the tricky surfaced saved Chi when Lindsey looked to be in on goal before an unhelpful bobble took the ball away from him.

Hassocks then suffered a real blow when Kingston was stretchered off after a collision with what looked like a serious ligament problem following a collision. That meant Phil Wickwar coming on for the final 20 minutes, much to the delight of the home support who enjoyed taunting the joint-boss as he made his way onto the pitch.

He soon silenced the doubters by confidently claiming a couple of crosses and there was little he could do about Chi's goal, a brilliant clearing header from Slaughter cannoning into the back of the Chi strikers head and into the net for one of the most flukey goals you are ever likely to see.

That set up a nervey last 10 minutes but Hassocks stood firm to repel wave after wave of Chi attacks with the back four of Jordan Badger, Will Broomfield, Slaughter and Joe Russell - an 11th hour replacement after Joe Maskell withdrew - ensuring that Wickwar didn't have a meaningful save to make as the Robins hung onto three precious points.

"It was an unreal performance in what has been a very difficult week for everybody at the club," Wickwar said afterwards. "They were a physical side but our young players more than matched them."

"We could and should have won by more, no mean feat against a side who will probably finish in the top five. We know survival is still out of our hands with the other sides around us having games in hand but we've given ourselves a real chance."

Hassocks: Kingston; Russell, Slaughter, Broomfield, Badger; Wilkins, Bant, Stokes, Lindsey; Death, Galbraith-Gibbons.

Subs: Berridge (Wilkins), Wickwar (Kingston).

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