Crazy and choatic: Hassocks and Midhurst's seven-goal half is breathless stuff

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Seven goals in 45 minutes made for a breathless first half between Hassocks and Premier Division newcomers Midhurst & Easebourne.

Unfortunately for the Robins, the result did not go their way as they slipped to a 4-3 defeat in James Westlake’s first home game in charge.

It was crazy and chaotic. The neutrals in a healthy crowd loved it and will no doubt return if this is the sort of entertainment served up at the Beacon this season. Westlake would have it enjoyed it less, especially his side’s defending. All four Midhurst goals were preventable. The Stags could scarcely believe their luck as they were aided into a 3-0 lead inside of 30 minutes.

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Hassocks could at least take the positive that they were excellent in the final hour. They scored three well-worked goals and maybe should have added more. The woodwork, a clearance off the line and an outstanding save from Josh Bird flying to his right all combined to deny the Robins a famous comeback.

Hassocks in pre-season action against Whitehawk | Picture: Chris NealHassocks in pre-season action against Whitehawk | Picture: Chris Neal
Hassocks in pre-season action against Whitehawk | Picture: Chris Neal

It seems obvious to state that Hassocks cannot keep gifting away goals and expect to win matches, no matter how good they look going forward. Just eight minutes had elapsed when Midhurst took the lead. Harry Tremlett hit a big switch, finding an alarming amount of space down the right side of the Hassocks defence for Billy Connor to exploit. Connor crossed low and hard to Rob Tambling, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot and beat Alex Harris. Midhurst added their second on the quarter of an hour mark. For the second game running, the Robins were caught and punished trying to play out from the back.

A combination of Harris selling Charlie Tuck short and a poor piece of control from the young defender gifted possession to Kieran Carter. He played a clever pass into Tambling, who beat the out-of-position Harris. At this point, you felt like Midhurst were going to score every time they came forward. Their third arrived on 31 via a pleasing passing move finished off by Connor.

That at least sparked Hassocks into life. Within a couple of minutes, a Lewis Westlake corner was headed home at the back post by the stooping Alex Bygraves. Westlake soon delivered another corner which Midhurst struggled to deal with. In the ensuing melee, Liam Benson connected with a rasping volley kept out by an outstanding block from Stags captain Alex Giles.

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Unfortunately, Hassocks were still not quite done being their own worst enemy at the other end as they conceded what proved to be the decisive fourth with 37 on the clock. A slice of luck from a rebound put Connor in on goal, causing more panic in the Hassocks ranks. Connor was subsequently scythed down by a rash challenge in the box, leaving Carter to convert the resulting spot kick.

In the remaining seven minutes of the half, the Robins managed to score twice to turn a comfortable 4-1 Midhurst lead into a slim Stags advantage going into the second 45. Hassocks man-of-the-match Harvey Blake charged down the right, skipping past three men with some nifty footwork and drilling a low ball into the area. Phil Johnson produced a clever dummy, allowing the ball to run to Jack Troak on the left. Troak stepped inside to overtake Stags midfielder Lewis Hamilton and bent an unstoppable shot into the corner.

Benson then got his account up and running for the season, striking a near-identical volley to his effort 10 minutes early. This time there was no Giles on hand to get in the way.

The momentum had totally switched and that continued into the second half. Benson sped away from Hamilton and his cross was just missed by Johnson with 53 on the clock. Next came that superb save from Bird, getting enough to tip a bending Mike Williamson effort around the post. Johnson had a header scrambled off the line by Dan Wood and Blake’s follow up was blocked behind for a corner.

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Blake and Johnson soon teamed up again, this time Johnson rattling the upright from 12 yards. Midhurst were hanging on but a crucial moment was about to go their way when Leon Turner was brought down on the edge of the area. Hassocks wanted a foul but nothing was forthcoming from referee Owen Lawrence. When Mr Lawrence immediately awarded a soft free kick on the touchline, frustrations boiled over and there were handbags at dawn.

Turner was sent for 10 minutes in the sin bin for continuing to protest vehemently about the initial tackle. Midhurst used the respite of playing against 10 men to regroup, taking the sting out of the game. The final 15 minutes yielded only one further chance and that went the way of the Stags. Tambling should have completed his hat-trick at the back post but his effort was weak, allowing Mark Zydonik to make the block.

Hassocks: Harris; Zydonik, Bygraves, Tuck; Blake, L Turner, Williamson, L Westlake, Troak; Johnson, Benson. Subs: J Westlake (Benson 76), Cash (Tuck 80), Bull (Troak 87), S Smith (Zydonik 93), Frankland (unused).