Harris injury concern after United win
Hastings United's footballers got their season off to a winning start this afternoon (Saturday), but there was concern afterwards over what looked a serious ankle injury to striker Jack Harris.
Three goals in 14 second half minutes fired United to a 4-1 win at home to South Park, giving them the biggest victory of anyone on the opening day of the 2016/17 Ryman Football League Division One South campaign.
But it came at a cost because Harris, who had a solid game, landed awkwardly after challenging South Park goalkeeper James Wastell for an aerial ball in the 89th minute.
Harrison Grant showed why he's the club's strength and conditioning coach by carrying Harris back to the changing room over his shoulders, and the player was in some pain as he was treated by ambulance staff after the game.
United will anxiously wait to discover the extent of Harris's injury, particularly with other forwards Frannie Collin and Bright Temba missing the opening day fixture through injury problems of their own.
As for the football, all four United goals were scored by summer signings as the U's triumphed on the opening day for the fourth successive season.
They had to do it the hard way, though, because South Park drew first blood with a goal from nowhere in the 18th minute. Kieran Lavery's low cross from the right was stabbed home by Joe Jackson as he slid in with United goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley, who had an otherwise quiet afternoon.
United enjoyed plenty of possession and territory during the first half, but despite playing some neat football at times, found it difficult to carve out clearcut chances.
Harry Stannard and Harris had goalbound efforts blocked when in dangerous positions, but United needed a slice of good fortune to get back on level terms in first half added time. Steve Watt's curling effort from outside the area was rather spilled into the net by Wastell to his left.
The second half got off to a quiet start and you felt United needed to step up a gear as the game meandered along for a while with little happening.
Sam Cruttwell came off the bench and immediately played a lovely ball to release Matt Bodkin and his cross was blazed over by Jay May, who went straight into the starting line-up after signing on loan from Maidstone United the previous day, from six yards.
May made amends for that miss by putting United ahead in the 69th minute. The tall striker glanced home a Richard Davies cross to round-off a neat move he started himself by feeding Bodkin.
May almost had another soon afterwards as his powerful header from Bodkin's centre was kept out by a fine reflex save from Wastell.
Seconds later United did go 3-1 up with a rather comical goal. The ball finally ended up in the net after a spot of pinball on the South Park line from a Wayne Wilson corner and Watt wheeled away claiming his second of the match.
If there was any doubt as to the outcome at that stage, there certainly wasn't after United added a fourth goal in the 82nd minute. Pidgeley's long goal kick led to Bodkin, who was named man of the match by the sponsors, rolling the ball past Wastell.
Cruttwell almost made it a repeat of the 5-1 scoreline in the corresponding fixture last season, but his angled drive was saved by the feet of Wastell.
United: Pidgeley, Davies, Cole, Wilson (Smith 78), Watt, Rowe, Bodkin, Johnson, May, Harris (Black 90+1), Stannard (Cruttwell 58). Subs not used: Butler, Nicholls. Attendance: 322.
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