Hassocks defeat Crawley Down Gatwick in topsy-turvy affair

Tuesday, April 20 2021 will be remembered as one of the craziest days in football history.

Alfie Loversidge opened the scoring for Hassocks in their entertaining win over Crawley Down Gatwick. Picture by Chris Neal
Alfie Loversidge opened the scoring for Hassocks in their entertaining win over Crawley Down Gatwick. Picture by Chris Neal

The European Super League fell apart at the seams, Premier League players challenged their billionaire paymasters and executives of the biggest clubs in the continent paid for their failed coup with their jobs.

There was no less drama at the Haven, where Crawley Down Gatwick and Hassocks put on a show that highlighted everything great about non-league football.

Two sets of players slugging it out, never giving up and doing it all for a love of the game rather than £3.5 billion in the bank. The only shame was there was nobody there to see it.

It finished Crawley Down 2-4 Hassocks, the Robins picking up another big three points to remain second in Group C of the Southern Combination League Premier Division Supplementary Shield, just behind Lingfield who became the latest side to inflict defeat on pre-tournament favourites Horley Town.

Hassocks go to Lingfield next for a game which suddenly looks pivotal in deciding who tops the table and qualifies for the semi-finals.

An honest assessment of the Robins’ victory over Down would be that they were lucky to come away with a win. The hosts dominated for large periods, pegging Hassocks’ 2-0 half-time lead back to 2-2 with 20 minutes remaining.

At that point, it seemed like the momentum would carry Down to victory but the Robins rallied, finding a way to score twice on the counter in the final three minutes.

Such a high-scoring match is not unusual between these sides. Their 21 previous meetings average nearly four goals per game. Hassocks’ most recent victory in these parts was a case in point; a 5-2 success from March 2019.

Such has been the pace of change at the Beacon over the past two years that only two of the Robins’ starting XI from that day were present at the Haven on this occasion, Bradley Tighe and Harvey Enticknap.

Enticknap had to settle for a spot on the bench as Hassocks made three changes from the side who had lost against Lingfield at the weekend. His place was taken by the returning Alfie Loversidge, who gave an outstanding performance at the heart of everything the Robins did in the first half from his central midfield berth.

Loversidge’s fellow youth teamer Jack Gardner came in for Bradley Bant and there was a change in goal where Charlie Pugh took over from Dave Carruthers, giving Pugh his first start of the Supplementary Shield.

Hassocks’ shock 3-1 win over Horley a week ago was built on a fast start and they were at it again here. Only six minutes had elapsed when some neat triangles down the right flank between James Littlejohn and Pat Harding opened up a gap to slide in Loversidge. The teenager made no mistake, beating Down goalkeeper Tony Jenner to make it 1-0.

Loversidge turned provider next, playing a big part in the goal which doubled the Robins’ advantage eight minutes before half time. Josh Short released Loversidge down the right and his cross was glanced home by Jack Troak ghosting in from the left flank. It was against the run of play, but nobody in Hassocks colours was complaining.

Midway through the second half and Hassocks’ 2-0 lead collapsed almost as quickly as the European Super League. Tiago Andrade was left with a simple finish on 68 minutes after a superb run and cross from Lewis Croal and 60 seconds later, Michael Belli levelled things up.

Down were very much in the ascendancy and they poured forward looking for a winner. That left plenty of space for Hassocks to exploit on the break, something this young Robins side are extremely adept at. The hosts discovered that to their cost as they were picked off as the game strayed into injury time.

A quick 89th minute break gave Charlie Pitcher the opportunity to run at the Down defence and he duly powered past a home player before beating Jenner to make it 3-2. The Anvils now had little choice but to become even more attacking, opening the game up even more.

Troak was the man to take advantage, beating former Hassocks right back Harvey Blake before chipping to the back post where Harding arrived to slam home his third goal in four Supplementary Shield appearances, securing the win.

Hassocks: Carruthers; Gardner, Tighe, Turner, Tuck; Littlejohn, Short, Loversidge, Troak; Pitcher, Harding. Subs: Enticknap, Bull, Marshall, Bradley, Sweetman.