Hastings United remain unbeaten in the league following a 2-0 win against visitors Hythe Town.
In challenging conditions, playing against well-drilled opposition, United put in a strong and determined performance to notch up another home victory. Daniel Ajakaiye opened the scoring in the first-half with a cool finish after a blocked shot landed at his feet.
Late into the second-half, substitute Davide Rodari confirmed the result with a fine drive.
First, credit to Hastings United staff for ensuring the game went ahead. Second, praise to both sets of players who rewarded those in attendance with an entertaining game despite the atrocious weather. Persistent showers and a strong swirling wind meant this was a day for ducks, sliding tackles and a firm pass.
Hythe Town who scored early in the recent FA Trophy encounter with United threatened to do so again here. Within two minutes a through ball sent Hythe’s Walmsley away and it took a wonderfully timed tackle by United goalkeeper Louis Rogers to clear the danger.
Beneath the floodlights United soon found their feet and started to make inroads with crisp passing and clever movement. Lanre Azeez, playing more central than his normal right-wing position, twice collected the ball and created opportunities. He began a move which ended with Craig Stone and Jake Elliott playing a one-two into the area. Stone ran out of space before he could pull the trigger. Following Ben Pope’s excellent sliding tackle, Azeez raced to the by-line and crossed for Sam Adams who had his shot blocked.
Having withstood some pressure Hythe created a chance of their own. Divine’s early cross into the area from the right touchline was well controlled by Walmsley, his shot saved by Rogers’ feet.
The breakthrough United had threatened arrived on 20 minutes. A corner was cleared to the edge of the area, a shot was blocked and with United appealing for handball the ball itself fell to Ajakaiye who scored into the bottom corner from six yards. Hythe, arms aloft, bellowed for offside but the referee assistant’s flag stayed down by his side. Ajakaiye playing to the whistle had put United in front.
Playing three across the back with Azeez having free reign and fullback Elliott hugging the right touchline, United sensed an opening and upped the tempo. Amongst others, Dixon, Azeez, Stone and Elliott all combined time and again with one-touch football, retaining possession and winning a succession of corners.
As half-time approached though there was a reminder United were only one goal to the good. Hythe almost fashioned an equaliser when Walmsley found space down the left and pulled a cross back to the edge of the United area. Carlton ran onto the ball and stung Rogers’ gloves, a great parried save from a hard-driven shot. The resulting ball into the box gave Hythe another shot which Rogers saved low down.
Half-time: Hastings United 1-0 Hythe Town
A heavier rain and stronger wind welcomed the players as they returned for the second-half. United were soon into their groove. Ajakaiye reached the by-line and drilled over a cross which hit Rodari and flew wide. Shortly after, Azeez weaved his way past defenders and hit a shot across the face of goal just inches wide of the far post.
Dixon and Sam Beale then released Ajakaiye down the left-wing, into the area. He superbly cut inside two men and fired in a low shot, blocked by Godman’s legs for a corner. Minutes later it was Azeez weaving his way through the Hythe defence to give Elliott a sight on goal, again the keepers’ legs kept the score at 1-0.
Half-an-hour into the second-half Hythe won a corner which they strangely hit straight to Ajakaiye, who broke rapidly. The ball eventually reached Elliott on the right-side of the area who was then fouled. The resulting freekick headed wide at the near-post.
The game was sealed on 83 minutes. A great turn by Dixon in midfield allowed Elliott and Azeez to exchange passes on the right-side of the area. Azeez was tackled but as the defender attempted to clear, the ever-increasing surface water intervened, allowing Elliott to steal the ball back and set up Rodari to thump home United’s second from eight yards.
In the last meaningful action United had chance of a third. Rodari cut out a cross-field pass and fired a shot from 20 yards, well tipped over by the keeper.
Full-time: Hastings United 2-0 Hythe Town
Man of the Match: Jack Dixon with a tireless midfield performance. Involved in plenty of the action, kept the team ticking over interspersed with his trademark nifty footwork.
With 10 games played United remain unbeaten in the league with a 100% home win record, seven clean-sheets and just three goals conceded. They move up to second in the table after Cray Valley won 1 – 0 at home and Sevenoaks Town drew 2 -2 away.
Hastings United: Rogers, Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Ajakaiye, Pope (45’ Rodari), Adams, Beale (90’ Pogue), Lovatt, Azeez (86’ Black), Dixon (Unused subs: Chalmers, Worrall)
Hythe Town: Godman, Devine, Simpson, Rogers, Coyle, Rowe, Carlton, Adonis-Taylor (88’ Booth), Walmsley (74’ Flisher), Hughes-Mason, Ibbertson (Unused subs: Trespaderne, Harding, Nicholls)
Next game: Saturday 9th November at home to Whitehawk in the FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round, kick-off 3pm.