If Guy Fawkes and his fellow Gunpowder Plotters had been as deadly on November 5th 1605 as Lancing were on Bonfire Night 2019, then British history would have a very different look to it.
Whereas Fawkes and Co failed to take their opportunity to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament, Naim Rouane’s Lancers were lethal in front of goal as they converted four of their six chances to beat Hassocks 4-1 and move into the third round of the Sussex Senior Cup.
This was a result that wasn’t unexpected; after all, Lancing are second in the Southern Combination League Premier Division table while Hassocks are just two places off the bottom.
But it was a much closer game than the final score suggests. Hassocks dominated for long periods but every time they failed to make that pressure count, Lancing’s vibrant side would punish them by scoring at the other end.
When Lancing did have the ball, they were excellent with it. There can’t be many teams in the top flight who are as comfortable or a good in possession as Rouane’s title chasers.
It was an incise passing move that gave the visitors the first chance of the game after just four minutes, Lewis Finney’s snapshot drawing a fine save from Josh Green.
Finney is the Premier Division’s leading scorer with 24 goals and he wasn’t to be denied for long, opening the scoring with a breath taking goal with nine minutes on the clock.
There didn’t look to be too much danger when Harry Mills’ loose pass surrendered possession for Hassocks, but Finney showed astonishing awareness to spot Green slightly off his line, sending a controlled effort from 40-odd yards out sailing over the head of the Robins goalkeeper and into the top corner
It was a goal that drew applause from all corners of the ground, yet somehow Dan Stokes would go on to outdo it with an even better effort for Hassocks’ consolation later in the game.
Jack Troak led the Robins’ response to Finney’s wondergoal, forcing Matt Evans into a sprawling save from a free kick 25 yards out after Ben Bacon was sliced down.
Troak then tried his luck with a curling effort, this time from open play but again Evans was equal to it, producing a magnificent save at full stretch to tip the ball onto the bar.
Eight minutes later and Evans was less convincing when attempting to gather a Troak header and when the loose ball fell to the young Hassocks winger, he finally managed to beat the Lancing goalkeeper - only to see Omar Bukleb head off the line.
A swift move down the right involving James Littlejohn and Bacon nearly created another opening for Troak before Hassocks were hit with a sucker punch as Lancing doubled their lead with seven minutes of the half remaining.
No Hassocks player was able to get a tackle in on James Beresford as he cut inside from the left and fired low and hard across Green to make it 2-0.
Hassocks reacted well though and straight from kick off, they found a way into the Lancing box where Evans had to spread himself to deny Littlejohn.
The second half opened with a moment of controversy as the hosts were denied what they felt was a clear cut penalty.
Alex Spinks had risen tallest at the back post, directing a header into the very top corner of the goal until Bukleb turned it over the bar with what appeared to be a hand.
Referee Nick Blogg disagreed and instead awarded a corner. From the resulting set piece, Bacon saw an effort pushed away by Evans and when Lancing couldn’t clear their lines, Littlejohn’s clever dummy left Troak six yards out with just Evans to beat but he somehow blasted into the children’s playpark away to the right of the West End of the Beacon.
Once again, Hassocks were made to pay for not turning their pressure into goals as, with an hour on the clock, Lancing scored with their first shot on target of the second half.
Substitute Tom Caplin was the architect as his exquisite 30 yard pass out of defence split the Hassocks back line, leaving Finney with a clear run at Green who he duly beat with aplomb.
There were 15 minutes remaining when Hassocks Stokes managed to do the seemingly impossible and better Finney’s earlier strike.
Stokes picked Max Blencowe’s pocket and despite being 35 yards out from goal and virtually on the righthand touchline, he produced a nonchalant chip with such power and accuracy that it beat Evans to drop into the far corner of the Lancing goal.
Hassocks were again on top with Benson missing a one-on-one which could’ve made an interesting final 15 minutes.
Instead, there are no prizes for guessing what happened next –up the other end Lancing went where Caplin added a fourth, his shot from the edge of the box taking a couple of deflections on its way past Green.
Hassocks: Green; Blake, Mills, Kublickas, Whittingham; Spinks, Stokes; Hillwood, Littlejohn, Troak; Bacon.
Subs: Benson (Bacon), Bull (Hillwood), Enticknap (Spinks), Marshall, Jupp (unused).