United clinch much-needed win

Hastings United goalscorers Dave Cook and Frankie Sawyer. Picture courtesy Joe Knight
Hastings United goalscorers Dave Cook and Frankie Sawyer. Picture courtesy Joe Knight

Hastings United’s footballers picked up a much-needed victory this afternoon (Monday).

The U’s ended a run of three successive Ryman Football League Division One South defeats with a 2-1 win at home to Hythe Town and a decent performance to boot.

United made four changes to the side beaten 4-1 at Burgess Hill Town on Saturday with Sam Cruttwell, Tim Olorunda, Ade Olorunda and Taser Hassan all coming into the starting line-up.

And the changes seemed to have the desired effect because United began the match in dominant fashion, playing some good football at a high tempo with decent deliveries coming into the box from both flanks.

Ronnie Dolan fired just wide of the far post in the first five minutes, while Olalekan Bankole forced a good save out of Hythe goalkeeper Dan Eason with a deflected shot following a lovely backheel by Ade Olorunda. Sean Ray headed narrowly off target from the resulting Hassan corner.

Phil Stevenson shot just wide from outside the box for Hythe, while at the other end, Ade Olorunda headed just over from Hassan’s free kick and John Walker made a crucial clearance with Dave Cook set to turn home a Frankie Sawyer cross following a good ball by Richard Rose.

Eason made a good save diving to his right at the end of a fine run and shot by Hassan, but Cook - one of three former Hythe players in the United side along with Dolan and Hassan - gave the U’s a fully deserved 27th minute lead by heading home Hassan’s resulting corner, his first United goal.

Sawyer almost flicked home a Rose shot from outside the box moments later. The usually deadly Sawyer then missed a glorious chance to double United’s advantage by pulling his shot wide when clean through after Ade Olorunda flicked on Josh Pelling’s long kick.

There really ought to have been clear daylight between the teams at the break, but instead it was all square after Hythe snatched an unlikely equaliser in added time. James Morrish got away through the inside right channel and as the flag stayed down, his low centre was driven home by full-back Jack Sullivan with the aid of a slight deflection.

On a Pilot Field pitch which stood up to the continual heavy rain commendably well, the second half was a more even contest and Hythe had a clear opportunity to take the lead in the 58th minute when the unmarked Craig Thompson headed wide.

The visitors were made to pay as United grabbed what proved to be the winner two minutes later with two of the game’s top performers heavily involved in the build-up. Ade Olorunda flicked on Pelling’s long kick and Dolan outpaced Walker before being brought down by the full-back in the left-hand side of the box. Sawyer clinically dispatched the ensuing penalty into the top right-hand corner.

Hythe had one decent opportunity to equalise five minutes later as Morrish chipped wide when in acres of space down the right after Pelling hesitated, but despite having to defend a few corners during five-and-a-half minutes of added time, United saw the game out relatively comfortably and Ade Olorunda fired a left-foot shot just wide at the other end.

It was United’s first home win of the season and third victory in three meetings with Hythe since the start of last term. They’ve risen to 17th in the early league table with seven points from six matches.

United: Pelling, Rose, S. Cruttwell, T. Olorunda, Ray, Bankole, Cook, Dolan, A. Olorunda (Masters 90+2), Sawyer, Hassan (Johnson 87). Subs not used: King, Fayers, M. Cruttwell. Attendance: 238.