No FA Cup giant-killing, but Hassocks give Chipstead a scare

James Littlejohn
James Littlejohn

There was to be no FA Cup giant killing act by Hassocks but those who packed out the Beacon for the visit of Isthmian League Chipstead were certainly kept entertained over 90 barnstorming minutes.

The first meeting between these two 10 days ago ended in a pretty bland 0-0 draw in south London which necessitated this replay.

Indeed, when Hassocks’ enigmatic defender Dan Jacques was asked afterwards for the highlights from the action at the Chips’ High Road home, his response was, “Jesus, I’m struggling here,” before adding, “I’d be a terrible pundit.”

To be fair to Jacques, even Chris Kamara would have had trouble making that stalemate sound exciting.

But there was no such struggle back in Mid Sussex. Five goals flew in, countless more opportunities were missed and the action ebbed and flowed from one end to the other at a rate of knots.

It finished 3-2 to the visitors but Hassocks may well feel that they deserved to go to extra time at the very least.

There was more than a hint of handball in Chipstead’s opener.

The Robins then missed a glorious chance to equalise right at the death when Dan Stokes’ effort didn’t quite have enough meat on it to beat Chips goalkeeper Oliver Pain.

Having said that, the visitors could point to the performance of Josh Green as evidence that it was them who were worthy progressors to the first qualifying round, where they will now meet Westfield.

Green was in sparkling form in the Hassocks goal, pulling off four quality saves which kept his side in the tie.

That followed on from an equally impressive showing in the first fixture.

One Chipstead connection was heard to quip that they’d be surprised to come up against a goalkeeping performance as good as this again this season, high praise indeed from visitors who ply their trade a level above the Robins.

There was little indication of the action that was to unfold in an indifferent opening 10 minutes.

Hassocks had more of the ball and went close on two occasions, but there was really very little to report until Chipstead scored with their first foray forward with 20 minutes on the clock.

An overlap on the right hand side saw Tommy Smith able to deliver a cross which appeared to hit a Chipstead head and then a hand on its way to being swept home by Tom Collins.

The home faithful certainly felt that it shouldn’t have stood but Kent-based referee Graeme Ions didn’t agree with that viewpoint and so Chips had the lead.

Hassocks lost their way a little and the visitors should have extended their advantage on a couple of occasions.

Sam Clayton flashed an effort just past the post and Green made a low stop down to his right to deny Collins.

That profligacy in front of goal came back to haunt the Chips as Hassocks flew out of the blocks at the start of the second half, equalising within four minutes of the restart.

James Littlejohn was the scorer, thumping a cross past Pain with aplomb for his second of the season.

If Hassocks thought that their opponents might be rattled by conceding in the same manner that the Robins themselves had been in the first half, then they were to be sorely disappointed as the Chipstead response was strong.

Green got the feintest of fingertips on a deflected effort from point blank range to turn the ball around the post.

From the resulting corner and Green’s reaction speed was matched by Jacques, who produced a great last ditch tackle when Malachi Hudson looked set to pull the trigger, resulting in another corner.

In that came and responsibility for keeping Hassocks level reverted back to Green who acrobatically tipped a header from Chipstead captain Chris Boulter over the bar.

Chipstead did eventually get the goal that their pressure deserved.

A brilliantly worked moved saw lively substitute Jensen Grant deliver a cross field pass to Daniel Moody. He slammed home on the volley.

There were 20 minutes left at this point and rather than sitting back to protect their lead, Chipstead instead decided to try and turn the screw.

Two more saves from Green were required, one from distance and one from close range before an 82nd minute volley from the edge of the box by Grant gave the visitors their third of the evening.

Hassocks weren’t giving up yet though. Jack Troak set up an interesting final five minutes when he sent a diving header past Pain to make it 3-2.

Then came that chance for Stokes right at the death. A huge throw was launched in with the loose ball falling to the feet of the Robins substitute but his goal bound effort was weak, allowing Pain to gratefully gather.

Hassocks: Green; Blake, Jacques, Mills, Whittingham; Broomfield, Berridge; Troak, Littlejohn, Hillwood; Bacon.

Subs: Stokes (Broomfield), Bull (Jacques), Kublickas, Ransome, Galbraith-Gibbons, Earl (unused).