Moles Send Robins Crashing Out

by Andrew Finch

Molesey 2-0 Hassocks  

Molesey progressed to the First Qualifying Round of the FA Vase on Saturday as an early goal from James McShane and a stoppage time strike by Matt Baxter helped them to a laboured 2-0 victory over a limited Hassocks side at Walton Road.

Despite making hard work of defeating their Sussex County League opponents, the result means that the Moles’ decent early season cup form continues, although boss Steve Webb would probably have taken more positives from the previous Saturday’s FA Cup defeat against Bashley.

The Moles were dealt a blow before the game with the news that keeper Colin Harris - who has impressed in his first two performances - would be absent with a shoulder injury, meaning a first team debut for reserve goalie Wester Young, and were it not for his assured second half performance the Moles might well have been staring at extra time, a replay or elimination.  Other changes to the side that scraped a 2-2 draw with Horley in midweek were Matt Baxter and Owen Bent resuming their partnership up front, whilst Aaron Tawonezvi made his first start for the club at the expense of Phil Dexter.

Amid much criticism from fans of his recent tactics and formation, Webb returned to 4-3-3 - the formation played during the Moles nine-match unbeaten run last season - although his plans were disrupted early on when top scorer Bent was withdrawn with a nasty looking head injury.  However, by that time the Moles were already a goal to the good thanks to what was possibly the quickest goal ever scored at Walton Road.

Kick off was played back to Steve Brown, who touched it onto fullback Andy Graves.  Graves took a touch before playing the ball down the line to Sam Lampard, who easily got the better of Arnie Kublickas and pulled the ball back for the onrushing McShane to slot home his third goal in four matches. 

The Moles went on to shade the rest of the half, with Tawonezvi nearly taking advantage of confusion in the visitors penalty area before the ball was hacked to safety, before the same player wriggled free of two Hassocks defenders on the left byline but failed to pick out the unmarked Baxter.

A rare foray into the Molesey half saw the splendidly named Spencer Slaughter come from an offside position to fire a shot beyond Young on 36 minutes, although to the Moles’ relief the ball clipped the post and went out for a goal-kick.

Hassocks had a decent claim for a penalty turned down five minutes before the break when Moses Spencer tangled with James Laing but play was waved on, before Joe Yeates nearly opened his account for the season, but his header from a McShane corner was deflected onto the bar by Kublickas on the line.

Hassocks came out more positive for the second half and had a half chance to draw level two minutes after the restart, but Kublickas shot wide when well placed, before a long-range McShane drive and a glancing Prendergast header both whistled wide.

The influence of Terry Gaicas – who was knocked out of the Vase by the Moles last season when a St.Francis Rangers player – increased as the game wore on, and on 70 minutes he wriggled clear of three half-hearted Molesey challenges and cut the ball back to Dan Jacques, whose effort was superbly cleared on the line by Lampard.  Molesey failed to clear their lines properly, and within seconds Young had made a terrific save to tip Laing’s close-range header over the bar.

The visitors went all out in search of an equaliser, and with ten minutes left on the clock Laing cut inside the Moles back four and drove a shot that just whistled past Young’s far post, before Young made what was possibly save of the season so far to once again deny Laing, as he sprang full length to deny the busy Hassocks front man.

With Moles fans anxiously awaiting the final whistle, good link up play between Lampard and substitute Dan Coombes sent Baxter racing clear, and despite being largely anonymous for the majority of the afternoon, he kept his cool to finish calmly beyond Joel Harding to seal the Moles victory.

Having been booked moments earlier for hacking down Lampard, the visitors’ Stuart Faith took the Moles’ second goal as his cue to demonstrate just how hard he is by picking a fight with McShane – nearly a foot smaller than him – and tempers threatened to boil over before calm was restored and the final few moments were played out in relative peace.

The result continues Webb’s fine record against Sussex League opposition, with Sidley United, St.Francis Rangers, Wick and now Hassocks all exiting either the FA Cup or FA Vase during Webb’s tenure as Molesey boss.  The only blemish on that record is an FA Cup defeat to Arundel in 2007, and the opportunity to atone for that will come along in a fortnight when Arundel visit Walton Road in the next round.


Line up:  Wester Young, Andy Graves, Ollie Dicks, Joe Yeates, Moses Spencer, Steve Brown [C], Sam Lampard, James McShane, Matt Baxter, Owen Bent (Craig Prendergast 5, Danny Coombes 72), Aaron Tawonezvi (Phil Dexter 80).  Subs (not used) Ross Defoe, Rob Lewis