Hassocks notch up first victory in 14 games

Action from Saturday's match. Picture by Stephen Goodger
Action from Saturday's match. Picture by Stephen Goodger

The fat ladies song has been put on hold for now as Hassocks won for the first time in 14 games, defeating Littlehampton Town 2-0 to give themselves a glimmer of hope that they might yet escape the Southern Combination Premier Division relegation zone.

On a day when the after effects of the Beast from the East weather front claimed all but three of the top flight's fixtures, goals from Jake Lindsey and Jack Wilkins ensured victory for the Robins against the only side below them in the table.

Action from Saturday's match. Picture by Stephen Goodger

Action from Saturday's match. Picture by Stephen Goodger

The result leaves Littlehampton five points adrift of safety having played at least two games more than every side around them, meaning that the 2015 champions are surely heading for Division One in 2018.

As for Hassocks, the safety line is now just one point away. It looks as if the remaining relegation spots will be filled by two of the Robins, Arundel, Eastbourne United or Worthing United but while Hassocks would still be the bookies favourites of those four to drop, they do now at least look like they can make a fight of it.

Given the snow and freezing temperatures that had battered the county all week, the Sportsfield was in excellent condition at the start of play but that soon changed when the wind and rain arrived after 20 minutes.

Hassocks had the wind to their advantage in the first half but there was little incentive to try and use it by going long with Jordan Badger, captaining the side for the first time, the only outfield player in a red shirt over six feet tall.

Instead, the game plan seemed to be to get Lindsey involved and running at Littlehampton as much as possible.

That tactic bore fruit just before the break when a Harry Mills through ball slipped the 17-year-old forward in on goal and he showed a remarkably cool head to finish through the legs of Littlehampton goalkeeper Jack Collins.

The hosts clearly saw a combination of the wind and Hassocks' hobbit-like statue as an invitation to spend most of the second half pumping balls into the box and they laid siege to the Robins goal for the first 15 minutes after the break.

They couldn't find a way past debutant goalkeeper Kingston Haigh however. Haigh was signed in midweek from Seaford Town as Hassocks continue to seek some sort of solution to the situation that has seen them use nine goalkeepers over the course of the past three seasons.

The former Ringer number one clawed away a Lucas Pattenden free kick and then produced a brilliant save with his feet from a Lee Garnham header.

Once Hassocks had weathered the storm, they were able to use the pace of slick passing ability of Matt Berridge, Dan Stokes and Lindsey to hit Littlehampton on the corner and they had a number of golden opportunities to double the lead on the counter.

Firstly, Stokes' attempt to play Lindsey in was foiled by a very poor pass and then Michael Death twice had the opportunity to send away one of the Robins midfield runners but didn't.

The most frustrating of those effectively ruined a three-on-none. Littlehampton had somehow created a scenario where Death, Stokes and Lindsey had no-one between themselves and the goal yet rather than release the ball to either of the speed duo, Death marauded slowly forward with it himself, allowing a defender to catch up after which he produced a 10 second tribute to Michael Flatley with some river dance before surrendering possession.

Not many of the Hassocks contingent saw the funny side of this and it certainly wouldn't have been at all amusing had Littlehampton equalised before Wilkins made the game save with 15 minutes to play with his first senior goal for the club.

It's been a long time coming for a striker who was prolific at under 18 level but had gone 46 first team appearances without a goal; his recent run of first team games having delivered in every way bar on the scoring front.

He addressed that issue with a crisp volley from a Berridge corner and the importance of that goal was such that it really knocked the wind out of Littlehampton's sails, Haigh having a quiet time after it while Hassocks could have extended their lead with Stokes missing a one-on-one and Death sending an effort just wide of the post.

"This was a massive game for us and it was excellent to see the young players stepping up to the plate," Phil Wickwar said afterwards.

"They were a big side with a big physical presence but we played our way to victory. The performance of the under 21s and under 18s was fantastic and a real credit to what is going on at our club at that level."

"There are more of them knocking on the door as well which is great. We know one win doesn't make everything better but we've given ourselves something to fight for now."

Hassocks: Haigh; Maskell, Broomfield, Badger, Bant; Stokes, Mills, Berridge, Lindsey; Wilkins, Death.

Subs: L Westlake (Maskell), Atherton (Death), Galbraith-Gibbons (Wilkins).