On Tuesday night, the Robins had been defeated by Broadbridge Heath. This time, it was Eastbourne United doing the damage as Ray Collier got his first win since his appointment as United boss following Matt Crabb’s resignation in October.
Collier had lost his first three games in charge, conceding 16 times along the way including a crushing 4-1 Eastbourne derby defeat to Langney Wanderers in midweek when Hassocks were being picked off by the Bears.
That the Robins were not able to inflict another loss on Collier and his players was partly down to goalkeeper Sam Owens, making his debut following the departure of Jordan Hawkins to Steyning Town 24 hours hour earlier.
Based on what United fans saw here, Owens looks like quite the capture. He was in inspired form throughout, pulling off a succession of excellent saves to pick up a hard-earned clean sheet and the hosts’ man-of-the-match award to boot.
There was a certain element of Hassocks being wasteful in front of goal too and despite their numerous chances, the Robins could have no real gripes with the result in the end.
Hassocks made two changes from the side who had lost to Broadbridge Heath.
Louis Pittock returned from injury to make his first start since September’s FA Vase exit to Peacehaven & Telscombe in place of Jack Gardner at right back with Jake Chadwick taking over from Josh Short in midfield.
It took a little while for the action to get going. The first chance of the game did not arrive until the 15th minute when Owens kept out a Pitcher effort.
Four minutes later and Charlie Pugh got behind a Dom Cole shot. The rebound looked like it was going to fall kindly to George Landais but he could not quite get there and Hassocks survived the scare.
United began to dominate with Landais at the heart of most of their good play. Landais had spent the early part of the campaign playing in the Mid Sussex League with Westfield, having been a regular scorer at Isthmian Level over the past couple of seasons.
Collier convincing Landais to step back up to the Southern Combination League could have a huge bearing in pulling United away from the Premier Division relegation zone and it was no surprise to see him score the only goal of the game on 44 minutes.
Jack Troak and Harvey Enticknap should have done better with clear chances to give Hassocks the lead which Owens saved before Landais struck.
At the other end, Pugh had denied Panashe Makwiramiti and Landais with the second of those opportunities coming after the Robins were not convincing when defending a Kane Penn corner.
Despite that flurry of action to finish the first half, it looked like the sides would go into the break goalless until Landais broke the deadlock as Pugh was badly let down by his teammates.
Hassocks squandered possession out on the right, allowing Makwiramiti the freedom of Eastbourne to pick out Landais in the middle of the Robins’ box.
Landais still had much to do but he succeeded in getting the ball under control, turning his man and clinically despatching a shot past Pugh to make it 1-0.
United began the second half the brighter and they should have doubled the advantage on 53.
Alfie Headland found himself with time and space in the middle of the Hassocks box, only to see his effort kept out by Pugh. United could then only scramble the rebound wide.
Hassocks did manage to find a way past Owens with 68 minutes played but the goal was controversially ruled out for offside.
Bradley Bant rattled the post with a rasping right hand drive from 25 yards with Troak gobbling up the rebound to slot into the unguarded net.
To reach the loose ball, Troak had come charging past a couple of United defenders and yet the linesman’s flag went up. Even the home supporters looked baffled by the decision, which seemed to deflate Hassocks somewhat.
The Robins kept huffing and puffing but having kept Owens on his toes throughout the first three quarters of the afternoon, the United goalkeeper was able to relax a little as the visitors struggled to make any further inroads.
In fact, it was United who ended the tie the strongest. Makwiramiti spotted Pugh out of his goal but his audacious effort dropped the wrong side of the crossbar and Landais then saw an effort scrambled off the line before dragging the final chance of the match wide.
Hassocks: Pugh; Pittock, Marshall, Turner, Whittingham; Enticknap, Chadwick, Bant, Troak; Littlejohn, Pitcher.
Subs: Gardner, Wilkes (used), Bull, Loversidge, Wickwar (unused).