Hassocks can't repeat their recent escape trick against Crawley Down Gatwick

Mark Dalgleish
Mark Dalgleish

In three of their previous six fixtures, Hassocks had overturned a two goal deficit to take something from games that they looked dead and buried in.

They couldn't repeat the trick for a fourth time although they did give it a real good go before succumbing to a 2-1 defeat against Crawley Down Gatwick with only nine home players left on the Beacon pitch by the final whistle.

Games between the Robins and the Anvils tend to throw up all manner of entertainment and this one wasn't lacking in that regard.

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There was some excellent football played, two quality goals and red cards for Hassocks' Josh Green and Spencer Slaughter just to add to the excitement.

Mark Dalgleish named an unchanged side for the first time this season, keeping faith with the same starting XI that had given Southern Combination League Premier Division leaders Chichester City a real fright in the Sussex Senior Cup in midweek.

That continuity saw Hassocks fly out of the traps in the first half. Within five minutes, they'd pieced together a flowing passing move from back to front which Phil Johnson couldn't quite finish off.

The chances kept coming for Johnson and he found himself with free headers on three separate occasions from Hassocks corners but was unable to force Andrew Greaves in the Down goal into any serious work from them.

Slaughter also went close with a great curling effort that went just over and the midfielder again tried his luck from distance after a deep cross from Harvey Blake bounced his way but the effort was too airborne to trouble Greaves.

Had Hassocks have managed to notch the goal that their first half perfomance deserved - they also had strong penalty appeals turned down after a clumsy challenge on Johnson in the box - then you suspect this might have been a very different game.

As it was, they went into half time level and within seven minutes of the first half were ruing not taking one of those earlier chances as Down took the lead and Green was heading for an early bath.

The young Hassocks goalkeeper was having another excellent game before he felled an attacker in the box. Hassocks could have little complaint about the penalty award although they certainly felt hard done by when it came to referee David Ellis showing a straight red.

It was April 2016 when IFAB, the body which decides on changes to the law of the game, announced that denying a goalscoring opportunity would no longer result in an automatic sending off.

Unfortunately, nobody appeared to have told Mr Ellis and so he pointed to the spot and dismissed Green, meaning the Robins will now be without his services for three games.

43-year-old Phil Wickwar took over in goal with Jake Lindsey the outfield player who was sacrificed and there was nothing that Wickwar could do about Nick Sullivan's penalty which was smashed home with aplomb.

Despite having to play for the remaining 40 minutes shorthanded, Hassocks still created plenty of chances. Slaughter drew a fine save from Greaves with another long ranger that moved violently through the air and the pace of Johnson continued to cause issues.

It was against the run of play when Down added their second, and what a second it was as Harry Petty netted a wonder goal from distance with 10 minutes remaining.

If the visitors thought that was game over then they were gravely mistaken as within five minutes, Hassocks had pulled one back.

Slaughter played a visionary pass which picked out the perfectly timed run of substitute James Littlejohn. Littlejohn still had plenty to do but he managed to get to the byline and pull the ball back for the arriving Johnson to slot home.

That looked like it would set up a tense final five minutes before Slaughter joined Green in the red card club. Again, this appeared to be a poor decision from Mr Ellis as with conditions becoming increasingly wet underfoot, Slaughter appeared to slip when crashing into a Down player.

The referee remarkably construed the situation to be a deliberate foul however and Slaughter was shown a second yellow, much to his anger which resulted in the midfielder offering an apology for his reaction afterwards.

Even with nine, Hassocks weren't done and they were only denied a share of the spoils by a miracle save right at the death from Greaves, preventing what would have been the best comeback of the lot.

Hassocks: Green; Common, Jacques, Badger, Blake; Stokes, Slaughter, Berridge; Johnson, Benson, Lindsey.

Subs: Wickwar, Littlejohn (used).