Hassocks are proving to be their own worst enemies at the moment and it was another couple of harrowing mishaps for the season’s ever growing catalogue that saw them eliminated from the Sussex Senior Cup at the hands of Steyning Town.
Losing 3-1 to a side sitting six places from the bottom of a division below doesn’t look particularly good on paper but Steyning are clearly in a false position and they came into this game full of confidence having knocked big spending Southern Combination League title favourites Horsham out of the FA Vase in their last outing ten days ago.
That was in stark contrast to a Hassocks side who arrived at the Shooting Field with no win in eight and sporting an abysmal record against lower division sides in knockout competitions with seven teams - Rustington, East Preston, Seaford Town, Southwick, Little Common, Littlehampton Town and Bexhill United – all having dispatched of the Robins in the previous seven seasons while playing a level lower.
Hassocks only had themselves to blame for their failure to reach the third round of the competition for the first time since 2012-13 though as after a slow start they grew into the tie to dominate proceedings and create a hatful of chances.
But if you hand your opposition two goals on a plate and fail to defend set pieces with any conviction you will always struggle to get results and that ultimately proved to be Hassocks’ downfall.
Steyning took the lead after a frantic end-to-end opening seven minutes when Danny Gainsford scored from close range after the visitors were unable to suitably deal with a corner that came about from a smart George Willett save.
Ben Rose at the other end was certainly the busier of the goalkeepers after that with Jamie Hillwood looking the most dangerous of Hassocks’ attacking players, twice seeing efforts well saved while Phil Gault was also denied with a header from a Michael Death cross.
Rose’s best stop came just before the half time whistle after a Hassocks corner was headed back across goal and looked to all the world to be destined for the back of the net until a brilliant tip over the bar somehow kept the ball out.
A plethora of corners early in the second half presented a number of half chances for the Robins including one thumping volley from Hillwood and a fine effort from the enigmatic Dan Jacques while a strong fist from Rose pushed away a well driven Gault free-kick as Hassocks looked to turn the screw.
And then disaster struck. Having seen former players Anthony Hibbert, Alex Spinks and Alex Bygraves all net against the Robins in recent weeks, it will have come as little surprise to the traveling supporters to see yet another ex-Hassocks player grab Steyning’s second here.
Craig Knowles netted four times in 13 games for the club during 2013-14 thanks largely to his penchant for opportunistic goals and he was at it again, intercepting Willett’s extremely weak attempt at a pass to Ashley Marsh to gleefully roll into an empty net.
The Hassocks response was a good one as they belatedly got the goal they had been threatening for the previous hour in the 85th minute, Gault rising to head home a free kick.
But any hopes they had of forcing the tie into extra time were dashed as straight from kick off a slip from Jacques presented the opportunity for a pull back which was swept home past Willett by Rob Clark.
Hassocks: Willett; Tighe, Marsh, Pitcher, Jacques; Bant, Slaughter, Hawkes, Hillwood; Death, Gault.
Subs: Melia (Bant), Barnes, Akehurst, Wallis, Price (unused).
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