Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter felt the introduction of Sam Cruttwell rather than the sending-off of an opposing player was the turning point in the Boxing Day win.
Cruttwell scored the only goal as Hastings won 1-0 at home to Sevenoaks Town in the Bostik League South East Division, just four minutes after Sevenoaks had Jack Miles sent-off.
Agutter said: “I don’t think it was a sending-off, but I also don’t think it was the turning point - the turning point is Sam Cruttwell coming on the pitch. The way he played when he came on we would’ve won the game anyway.
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“I thought it was a really professional performance. At half time we said more of the same with 10 percent more aggression in the way we play on and off the ball. We limited them to scraps really I think.
“It was a good, solid defensive display. Something we need to improve on is winning games 1-0 and we’ve done that. The last two games there wasn’t the scintillating, eye-catching football there was in August, but we’ve got six points on the board.”
Cruttwell was left out of the starting XI in favour of Sonny Dullaway, who is back at the club after a loan spell at Eastbourne Town.
“Selection was made based on training,” continued Agutter. “Over the Christmas period we’ve looked a lot at how the players have been training and the starting XI was picked off the back of that. I think it’s very easy to justify team selection if you’re black and white with it.
“Sam Cruttwell was our best player against VCD (Athletic, in the previous game), but he will be the first to admit over the Christmas period he’s not trained perhaps to the same level as one or two others.
“I think a year Crutts might have had the hump, but he’s matured, he’s a bit more experienced, he’s one of the senior players now and he’s won us the game. He will rightly get the plaudits because I thought he was outstanding when he came on.
“Sonny went out at Town and did really well. Since his loan finished on the 22nd he’s worked hard and earned his spot.
“I felt with Sonny and Antonio (Walker) being in that position off the centre-forward, they’re two clever, quite mobile players who could cause them problems.”
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 17-42 (+21 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 17-34 (+15), 3 Whyteleafe 17-32 (+17), 4 Horsham 17-31 (+11), 5 Haywards Heath Town 17-31 (+10), 6 Ashford United 17-30 (+14), 7 Hythe Town 18-27 (+3), 8 Phoenix Sports 17-25 (+4), 9 VCD Athletic 16-25 (+4), 10 Three Bridges 17-23 (-3).