Hassocks booked their place in the quarter finals of the Peter Bentley League Cup with their sixth successive win in all competitions, seeing off dogged Division One opponents Crawley Down Gatwick 3-2 at the Haven.
Despite the Robins rich vein of form this tie had banana skin written all over it on a difficult surface in freezing conditions against hosts who look well placed to make an immediate return to the top flight of the Southern Combination League following relegation last year.
There was hardly anything between the two sides with the game only decided in the 88th minute by a moment of brilliance from the returning Mark Price.
The mercurial midfielder had gone into hibernation in the Beacon treatment room over the winter, last being seen on the pitch back in October but if anybody needed reminding of the quality he can offer Hassocks when fit and firing it came in the shape of a beautiful volley which was teed up by an equally pleasing deft chip from Michael Death.
It was described by one observer as “the move of the night” although there was scant competition for that particular accolade with most of the crowd - and certainly the travelling supporters - just happy that it meant they wouldn’t be subjected to another 30 minutes of extra time in the cold.
Hassocks took the lead with the first shot of the game which may read like a good thing until you hear that it took a full 44 minutes for it to arrive, Jonno Melia firing home from just inside the box for his fourth goal in four games.
If the wait for any meaningful action in the first half was tantamount to torture then the second half began with a bang, Down equalising within 90 seconds of the restart when Tom Barnes used his shinpad to great effect from a home point of view to send the ball into his own goal after the Robins made a habitual mess out of clearing a corner.
That left Hassocks in a state of shock and the hosts took full advantage to take the lead five minutes later, a long ball over the top allowing Sam Cane to race clear and beat Alex Harris.
Just after the hour mark the Anvils lost striker Ben Brooker to a red card for violent conduct and within six minutes of the hosts reduction to ten their lack of discipline was punished when some clever thinking from Hassocks saw a quick free kick find it’s way to Josh Hawkes who finished neatly for the equaliser.
The Robins went for the jugular after that, throwing on Jack Wilkins and Nick Pitcher and they were rewarded when Price popped up with the winning goal which sends Hassocks to high flying Lancing in the last eight much to the happiness of Phil Wickwar.
“We’re into the next round which is the main thing. It’s a tough place to come and get a result and we showed great character and composure to do it with some big players missing.”
Among those was Spencer Slaughter who departed for Brazil at the weekend on the first leg of a round-the-world trip but the Robins have moved quickly to replace the talismanic midfielder, re-signing former youth team product George Brown from Lewes.
Hassocks: Harris; Barnes, Marsh, Wallis, Akehurst; Price, Hawkes, Westlake, Bant; Death, Melia.
Subs: Pitcher (Hawkes), Wilkins (Bant), Jacques (Price), Tighe (unused).
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