Hastings United Football Club produced surely its best half of football this season en route to a deserved home victory this afternoon (Saturday).
Chris Agutter’s side was excellent in the opening period before losing its way somewhat during the second and in the end being relieved to clinch a 2-1 win against VCD Athletic.
The result stretched Hastings’ unbeaten run to five Bostik Football League Division One South games and moved them up to 14th in the table, three places and two points above their victims.
Without Rhys Whyborne and with Sam Beale still missing, Ollie Rowe reverted to a central defensive role, Bradley Pritchard came in at right-back and Sam Cruttwell moved to left-back. Davide Rodari was restored to the starting line-up in midfield.
Hastings dominated the first half with some terrific football on a damp and drizzly afternoon at The Pilot Field. They scored two goals, hit the woodwork twice and spurned a couple of other decent opportunities to have put the game to bed before the break.
Sam Adams was narrowly off target with an early free kick after Calum Davies was brought down by VCD goalkeeper Joe Mant right on the edge of the box. Still in the first five minutes, Davies struck the inside of the far post from Rodari’s pass and the ball rebounded into Mant’s arms.
Cruttwell’s long range drive was well gathered by Mant just before Hastings opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Ansu Janneh got the better of VCD defender Kamarl Duncan before lashing a powerful left-foot shot past Mant from around a dozen yards.
After Dayshonne Golding fired just wide of the far post and Rodari had a shot parried by Mant, Hastings went two-up in the 26th minute. Adams played a lovely ball through to Davies, who cleverly engineered the yard of space he needed to bury a fine finish into the far corner.
Golding then thumped a shot against the crossbar from Janneh’s pass before Rodari had two clear chances in barely a minute. He firstly shot weakly at Mant having dispossessed the last defender and then steered Golding’s low centre wide of the far post while stretching.
Fortunate to still be in the game, VCD enjoyed a good five-minute spell right at the end of the half, during which Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock saved from Kojo Awotwi at his near post and Alastair Gordon’s corner was headed wide by Kemo Darboe.
The opening stages of the second period were far more even. Janneh saw a shot blocked after a lovely one-two with Rodari and Davies volleyed Golding’s cross just wide, while at the other end, Horlock was quickly off his line to block Omar Lawson’s header following Darboe’s flick through.
Lawson again tested Horlock, this time with a decent strike from distance, before VCD pulled one back in the 58th minute. Horlock parried the initial effort, but Ellis Brown turned home the rebound from close range.
Suddenly it was game on and VCD began to see a lot of the ball as Hastings, certainly not for the first time this season, dropped deep in an effort to protect a lead that was now far more precarious than it ought to have been.
Golding had a shot blocked after skipping past Gordon and Davies slipped in the act of shooting from just outside the six yard box, while at the other end, Horlock saved at the feet of Anthony Martin and pulled off a splendid stop low to his left from Lawson’s goalbound free kick.
Man of the moment Davies hobbled off in the 78th minute and was replaced by Kenny Pogue, who looked set to score in added time following great work by Adams and George Taggart only to be denied by a brilliant Daniel Smith block.
Hastings: Horlock, Pritchard (Black 62), Cruttwell, Lovatt, Rowe, Climpson, Rodari, Adams, Davies (Pogue 78), Janneh (Taggart 69), Golding. Subs not used: Sotoyinbo, Smith. Attendance: 297.
* A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off in honour of long-time supporter Len King and a presentation was made to Rhys Whyborne at half time in recognition of making 200 appearances for the club.