Hassocks 5 AFC Varndeanians 0
by Scott MaCarthy
Following their first Southern Combination League Premier Division defeat of the season against Eastbourne United a week earlier, the big question Hassocks faced was how would they respond to losing.
Last season, one reversal often transpired into a barren run of form. Not so this time around. The Robins did enough to squeeze past AFC Uckfield Town in the Sussex Senior Cup on Tuesday night before this dominant display and 5-0 victory over AFC Varndeanians at the Beacon.
Hassocks had the game won before half time, going into the break three goals to the good thanks to Sean Stephenson, Alex Fair and Alfie Loversidge.
Liam Benson added two more after the break and in truth, the winning margin could have been even bigger.
First though, the Robins had to weather a strong start from Varndeanians.
Toby Reeder bent a free kick from 25 yards just the wrong side of the post and the same player was inches wide with a powerful drive after Tom Frankland and Jamie Wilkes conspired to give away possession in a dangerous position.
There were half-hearted Hassocks penalty appeals between those two chances.
Wilkes glided with the ball from the middle of the park out to the left before dinking a cross to the back post.
Stephenson went to ground from what appeared to be a push in the back but referee Daniel Jeffrey waved play on.
An early tactical adjustment from James Westlake saw Hassocks switch their wingers, Stephenson swapping from left to right with Loversidge going the other way.
It did not take long for the change to pay off. Fair flicked an aerial pass from Joe Bull into the path of Stephenson, who cut inside from his new flank to dance past three Varndeanians defenders and fire into the bottom corner.
Stephenson almost had a second shortly after. Again he drifted into the middle and drew a fine parry from Varndeanians goalkeeper Jordan Hawkins. Fair blasted the rebound over.
Further chances came for Hassocks. Loversidge could not quite convert a Stephenson cross flashed across the face of goal.
The Robins then won a frankly absurd six headers in a row to get the ball into the box, only for Fair to roll a left footed effort just wide when the ball eventually came out of the sky.
Hassocks finally doubled their advantage with five minutes of the first half remaining.
Mike Williamson picked the pocket of former Robin Sam Rogers in midfield, Benson worked the loose ball into a gap and Fair produced an outrageous finish from outside the area.
Wilkes was the architect of the third which came three minutes later. The tall striker won a header to set himself racing clear down that left flank he had been eerily drawn towards.
After leading the Varndeanians right back on a merry dance, the rangy Wilkes passed low and hard into the middle where Loversidge arrived to scoop the ball over Hawkins via a quite outrageous finish.
The second half continued in much the same manner as the first had finished with Hassocks well on top.
Alex Bygraves was unlucky to see a header drop onto the roof of the net and more Wilkes trickery paved the way for Stephenson to strike into the side netting.
It was in the final 20 that the Robins’ leading scorer Benson come to the party with a 13 minute brace to complete the rout.
Raging Bull has racked up his fair share of assists from left back this season and he added another to his growing collection for the fourth.
Fraser Trigwell sent a pinpoint kick forward, Bull charged up the pitch to win the header and that put Benson in one-on-one.
Benson made no mistake, chipping Hawkins as the Varndeanians keeper dived at his feet in vain.
That sparked an action packed closing spell. A stretching Benson volley from a Frankland cross rolled just beyond the far post.
Substitute Kyle Woolven then played a reverse pass to put Loversidge in, only for Hawkins to make the save.
Woolven, Wilkes and Pat Harding all came close to adding to the scoreline, the latter seeing his header denied by a brilliant Hawkins save from point blank.
Varndeanians saw their best chance of the game come back off the post from a header, after which Benson wrapped up the scoring.
The lively Woolven spotted a gap to thread a pass into. Benson was still in this own half when he chased onto it, outstripping the Varndeanians defence and rounding Hawkins to roll into the empty net.
Hassocks: Trigwell; Frankland, Gunn, Bygraves, Bull; Loversidge, Wilkes, Williamson, Stephenson; Fair, Benson. Subs: Woolven, Harding, Mundy, S Smith, L Westlake (used).
Pagham 4 AFC Uckfield Town 0
by Paul Davidson
The Lions, playing far and away their best football of the season, stuck four goals past their opponents, and it could have well been several more. See Roger Smith’s pictures from the match here.
Right from the start Pagham were on the attack and after a couple of close calls they took the lead on 7 minutes with a controversial strike. A corner on the right was turned goalwards by Tom Jefkins but appeared to be cleared off the line by a defender.
The linesman on the far side was in no doubt and despite vehement arguments by the Uckfield players, the goal was given. The Lions kept the pressure up and made several more half-chances but could not get the ball into the net, until two minutes before half-time, when a corner on the left this time by Simmonds was firmly headed into the back of the net for his first goal for the club by Toby Pointing.
It wasn’t all Pagham though, Uckfield played their part in a fast-paced half but just couldn’t cope with the Lions flowing football.
The second-half started in the same whirlwind fashion, and it only took two minutes for Pagham to score again. Dan Simmonds broke through on the right and his early cross found Jeffers at the far post and although his first shot was well saved, he pounced to tuck in the rebound.
The game went on in the same fashion with Pagham spraying the ball around the pitch and their opponents having to rely on the odd break. The Lions finished the scoring on 72 minutes when a lovely passing movement ended with the ball at the feet of top scorer Simmonds, and he made no mistake from close in.
A wonderful performance from the Lions and a very welcome three points to lift them away from the bottom of table.
Pagham: Kelly, Atkinson, Micevicius, Thorn (Heath), Pointing, Wollers, Howard (Kazlauskas), Philips (Kardos), Simmonds, Jefkins, Carrol. Sub: Hauxwell.
Banstead Athletic 1 Wick 3
SCFL Division 1
Jet-lagged Josh Irish rolled the dice and turned up trumps as he helped Wick win three Division One points on his return from a Las Vegas vacation.
The Dragons headed back to the south coast feeling flush after a comfortable victory sparked by two goals from the in-form striker and another from fellow forward Dave Crouch.
Irish has now scored ten times this season with nine of them away from Crabtree Park and manager Lee Baldwin said: ‘We really hit the jackpot thanks to Josh and Crouchy’s finishing and some good all-round play.
‘We were without seven regulars and although it wasn’t the best of games it was a comfortable enough win and it’s always fantastic when you get a result like that.’
Irish got the ball rolling in the 15th minute when he directed a poor clearance from the home goalkeeper into the empty net from 25 yards.
Crouch doubled the advantage by steering his sixth goal of the campaign into the bottom far corner from just outside the Banstead area midway through the second half.
And Irish sealed victory with 13 minutes remaining when he clipped a smart finish over the goalkeeper from 15 yards.
Banstead scored a late consolation but the Dragons victory was fully deserved and they have now taken 12 points from their last five league matches ahead of Saturday’s home game with fellow high-flyers Seaford Town (3pm).
Meanwhile, Wick’s reward for their 3-1 victory against Premier Division Loxwood in the Sussex Transport Senior Cup is a second round tie at home to Bexhill, who also hail from the top flight.
Worthing United 4 Billingshurst 0
SCFL Division 1
After four games on the road for the Mavericks it was a triumphant return to Lyons Way with a resounding win over a visiting team that finished the game with just nine players following two second half dismissals.
The damage was done in the first period through goals from Brad Hunt, Alex Webber, Dan Hills and Alex Webber. All three goals followed assists from MoM Danny Kingston, who himself got on the scoresheet after the break with a fine solo effort to snuff out any hopes the Visitors may have had of an unlikely comeback.
Indeed frustration got the better of two Billingshurst players in separate incidents that caused the reduction in their numbers as the half continued.
Next up for Worthing Utd is an away trip on Saturday to Gillingham to face Hollands and Blair in the FA Vase.