Chris Agutter praised a ‘professional performance’ from his Hastings United side after they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at home to second-bottom Ramsgate in the Isthmian South East on Saturday.
Daniel Ajakaiye fired home after 11 minutes before Ben Pope hit a drive into the top corner on the stroke of half-time.
Pope doubled his tally with a penalty at the start of the second-half while Ramsgate were unable to make the most of a one-man advantage when Craig Stone was sent off for two bookable offences.
Agutter said: “A professional performance is the best way to describe it. I don’t think we were at the same level as maybe we were against Chichester and East Grinstead but we got through the game relatively comfortably.”
It took top-of-the-table United just 11 minutes to settle their nerves with an opening goal.
Jack Dixon picked up the ball, after Pope dispossessed a centre-half with a perfectly executed sliding tackle, before playing in Ajakaiye whose left-footed strike found the bottom corner sweetly.
United felt they should have had a penalty on 25 minutes when a Ramsgate back-pass was mis-controlled by the goalkeeper allowing Pope to make a challenge.
Pope appeared to get there first, falling over the keeper’s outstretched leg whilst the ball rolled out for a goal-kick.
But the referee wasn’t convinced as he booked Pope for simulation and Stone for protesting.
The U’s found a valuable second before the break when Pope sent a thumping 25-yard stunner into the top right-hand corner, a strike the goalkeeper could only watch and admire.
The second-half began in a similar vein as the U’s increased their lead. Louis Rogers began the move with an accurate pass from deep inside the penalty area to halfway and straight onto Ajakaiye’s boot.
Neat interplay between him and Pope saw the ball pulled back for Dixon to cross which the defender deflected with a hand, leaving the referee little choice but to point to the spot, and Pope was on hand to secure his brace, converting coolly.
Another superb United performance was slightly tainted however when Stone was awarded a second yellow card.
Chasing a clearance, he just failed to keep the ball in on the touchline but the referee deemed he’d kicked the ball purposely away, as he brandished the centre-half with a second yellow card.
Pope netted his 15th and 16th goals of the season as he recorded his brace and Agutter was delighted with his performance.
He said: “Ben was excellent. He was the best player on the pitch.”
“His hold-up play was superb, bringing other people into and out of the game, and that first goal was an outstanding strike. He does it in training most weeks.”
“Ben, Gary Elphick and Sam Adams were superb but we were delighted with the overall team performance.”
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Ajakaiye (Pool80’), Pope (Pogue 73’), Adams, Worrall (Beale 60’), Azeez, Dixon. Unused: Barlow, White.