With a markedly improved performance compared to the previous week, Hassocks became the first team to take a point off league leaders Lewes Foundation Squad with a battling 2-2 draw against a very young and fit side.
Hassocks had to soak up early pressure with vital defensive headers being won by Jess and Gemma Craig followed by Lewes missing a great chance in the 5th minute. Keeper Sarah Chappell then had to come out quickly to gather a dangerous looking cross.
Against the run of play, however, Hassocks took the lead in the 8th minute with Katherine Chappell finding the net after a passing movement involving Bethany Purse and Jess Craig. Lewes responded quickly and central defenders Claire Stevens and Emma Flin both had to make saving clearances. In the 13th minute, Hassocks increased their lead with a Bethany Purse pass to Kelly Rushworth who calmly lofted the ball over the advancing keeper.
Clearly shocked by the scoreline, Lewes were forcing the pace. A shot from distance was wide and Claire Stevens had to make another great block. The pressure told, however, when in the 23rd minute, Lewes netted to make the score 2-1. Buoyed by the goal, Lewes immediately had another effort go over the bar and then a shot just wide. Substitute Tallie Bright was brought on to replace Katherine Chappell who had a slight knock but Hassocks remained under pressure. Chloe John was being tested by the pacy attackers but was showing great determination and frequently won the ball in tight situations. Keeper Sarah Chappell had to rush out to gather a through ball and then had to make a brilliant point blank save saving what looked like a certain goal. She was in action again in the 35th minute saving a low shot.
Substitute Ria Banitas was brought on in the 37th minute, replacing skipper Sam Newman who had made a full contribution to the rearguard action. However, despite being under pressure for the remainder of the half, Hassocks did manage another effort on goal in the 44th minute, a Bethany Purse header from a Kirsten Mair free kick being cleared off the line. The half ended with Hassocks leading 2-1.
Hassocks brought on Liz King for the second half and she was quickly into the action intercepting a dangerous looking pass. Ria Banitas showed her pace with an excellent piece of covering and Claire Stevens had to block another effort on goal. Lewes, being a very young fit side, were clearly forcing the pace but Hassocks were defending well from the front, the forwards and midfielders assisting the defenders in keeping Lewes’s chances to a minimum.
Substitute Rose Jump was brought on in the 60th minute but the Lewes’s attacks continued. A free kick in the 65th minute was expertly saved by Sarah Chappell, pushing the shot onto the bar and to safety. Another substitute, Jodie Johanson, was brought on in the 68th minute, but she was immediately injured and was replaced by Kirsten Mair. She recovered quickly, however, and was brought back on seven minutes later. The workrate required against players much younger was telling its toll, Claire Stevens having to be treated for cramp.
Sarah Chappell had to make another point blank save in the 78th minute, injuring herself in the process. The defence was under pressure now and Gemma Craig was brought back on. Rose Jump defended well and Claire Stevens headed away another dangerous looking cross. Hassocks continued to defy Lewes and it looked as if they would hold out. However, it was not to be. In the 7th minute of time added on, a Lewes free kick was hit high into the goal giving Lewes an equaliser with what turned out to be virtually the last kick of the match.
Although it was heart-breaking to be denied a win in such a manner, Lewes deserve credit for not giving up and all the Hassocks players deserve the highest praise for taking a point from a team who will certainly be leading contenders for the league title. The manager, though, will want to ensure that they take this effort and commitment into their next match.
By Colin Stevens