Three Bridges focus on FA Cup - Hassocks have mixed SCFL start

There's news from Three Bridges FC and Hassocks FC as the league season starts for one and FA Cup ties loom for both.

THREE BRIDGES

Three Bridges completed their pre season programme with a disappointing 2-4 defeat at home to Chipstead on Saturday.

Twice ahead thanks to an Alex Barbary header and a 35-yard chip by Dan Perry, some indifferent defending and some neat intricate play by the visitors, whose scorers included former Bridges skipper Jensen Grant, Bridges now need to forget this setback and concentrate on this Saturday’s FA Cup tie at home to Whitstable Town. Kick off is 3pm.

Hassocks had a winning start at Peacehaven / Picture: Chris Neal

HASSOCKS by Scott McCarthy

“Plenty to learn from.” That was the verdict of new Hassocks head coach James Westlake after his reign began with a 3-0 defeat against an impressive Peacehaven & Telscombe outfit.

The Window Workshop Sports Park has never been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Robins, making this a particularly tough opening fixture for Hassocks. Just twice since 1997 have Hassocks come away from Peacehaven with victory and despite competing reasonably well with a well-drilled Tye outfit in the opening 20 minutes, they were well beaten in the end.

It has been a busy summer for Westlake in terms of recruitment. Nine new players featured against Peacehaven, five in the starting XI and four more from the bench. Such significant rebuilds often take time to gel. All the recruits are proven players at this level and so once they do become used to playing together, Hassocks should expect to improve on their 16th place finish of 2021-22.

Of the nine, Alex Bygraves stood out the most on his way to winning Hassocks’ Man-of-the-Match award. Bygraves captained Peacehaven last season and whilst this may not have been the happiest of returns to the Sports Park, the travelling support still came away impressed by his contribution.

Bygraves was joined at the back by former Broadbridge Heath man Mark Zydonik. Tom Frankland made his debut on the right, Mike Williamson anchored the midfield and Liam Benson - another who spent part of last season with the Tye - led the line at the start of his fourth spell with the Robins.

Both sides knocked the ball around well during that even start but chances were at a premium. That was until the 36th minute, when Max Hollobone scored a very early Goal of the Season contender for the hosts. Hollobone picked the ball up a long way from goal, weaving through the Hassocks midfield before hitting an unstoppable effort from 25 yards into the top corner to give Alex Harris no chance.

Unfortunately for the Robins number one, that was not the case when Peacehaven doubled their lead seven minutes later. Harris had just made a fine stop from Callum Edwards following nice build up by Cam Wiltshire.

Hassocks then wasted a throw, giving possession straight to Ross Barclay. His ball pumped towards Harris was completely miss-controlled by the goalkeeper, whose poor touch presented Edwards with a tap into an empty net. The Robins now found themselves with a mountain to climb in the second half, having looked for most of the first like they would get into the break on level terms.

Hassocks did at least improve after whatever was said to them during the team talk, almost pulling one back within the first 10 minutes of the restart. Hollobone stung the palms of Harris with Hassocks soon breaking up the other end. They won a free kick which Lewis Westlake tossed into the box.

Bygraves met it with a thumping header, forcing former Robins goalkeeper Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke into a superb save flying to his right. Peacehaven began to focus their attacks down the flanks after that. Barclay crossed and Brandon Kilula could not quite get on the end of it.

Harris went some of the way toward atoning for his earlier mistake with a strong one-on-one save from Jack Pettett and Bradley Bant - who swapped Hassocks for Peacehaven in the summer - came close to connecting with another back post cross.

Southern Combination clubs are permitted to make up to five subs this season and Hassocks opted to send on four, all of whom were designed to introduce more attacking impetus. Phil Johnson and Harvey Blake are both back from Crawley Down Gatwick, Sam Cash has re-joined from AFC Uckfield Town and Leon Turner is an exciting young capture from Croydon.

Despite the changes, Hassocks still struggled to make much headway. The Robins were lucky to escape when Emmanuel Osei-Asomah put a free header from a corner off target as the game entered its final quart of an hour.

Peacehaven did manage to add a third with 12 minutes remaining. A long ball forward was headed back into midfield and collected by Edwards. He chipped Harris to complete the scoring.

Hassocks: Harris; Zydonik, Bygraves, Tuck; Frankland, Loversidge, Williamson, L Westlake, Troak; S Smith, Benson. Subs: Blake (Frankland), Johnson (Smith), L Turner (Loversidge), Cash (Zydonik).

* Hassocks lost 4-3 at home to newly promoted Midhurst in a midweek thriller. They host Lingfield in the FA Cup on Saturday.