United take on title-chasing Dorking

Hastings United's footballers are set to put their proud unbeaten home league record on the line against another of the division's big guns.

Saturday, 3rd December 2016, 5:38 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:52 pm
Harry Stannard challenges Horsham goalkeeper Josh Pelling during last weekend's 1-1 draw. Picture courtesy Scott White

Eleven days after the very good 3-0 win against Greenwich Borough in their last home fixture, United will welcome Dorking Wanderers to The Pilot Field today (Saturday).

Dorking have led the Ryman Football League Division One South table for much of the season so far, but were knocked off the top by Tooting & Mitcham United on Wednesday night.

United manager Darren Hare said: "It would be great to win on Saturday, it would be really good. It wouldn't be a no brainer if we draw, but we don't want to lose because we don't want to lose any more ground."

Hare's team is currently 11th in the table - seven points outside the play-off places - but with between three and five games in hand on every club above them.

United were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Dorking in September's reverse fixture, when their leading scorer last season, Billy Medlock, scored the first Dorking goal.

But United are the only club in the division still undefeated at home having picked up 19 points from a possible 21 at The Pilot Field so far and Hare believes his side is better now than it was then.

That's despite the injury problems they currently face, particularly in defence. Sam Cole has had an MRI scan on his knee and early indications are that he may need surgery. The club is helping to arrange for him to see a surgeon to clarify the extent of the damage to his ACL and cartilage.

Kiernan Hughes-Mason closes down a Horsham opponent. Picture courtesy Scott White

Fellow full-back Stephen Butcher is still two weeks from fitness, while centre-half Steve Watt is hopeful of a return to training before the Christmas period and midfielder Barry Cogan could be out for 3-4 weeks with ankle ligament damage.

Richard Davies and goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley should return today, though, and Callum Emptage - who United signed from East Grinstead Town on Tuesday - is in line to make his debut.

The 20-year-old Emptage is a former Gillingham young professional who can play in either full-back role, as a right-sided centre-back and a holding midfielder.

"I’ve known Callum a long time and he has had a great upbringing," said Hare. "He is versatile and has the sort of character I want to help propel forwards at this football club.

Harry Stannard goes for goal against Horsham. Picture courtesy Scott White

"I think we need to strengthen still in defensive areas. I'm going to speak to the board about bringing someone in on loan for a month to help us over the Christmas period. If we're going to do anything this year, now's the time to just expand our options."

United will also be at home on Tuesday night (kick-off 7.45pm) against a Horsham side which they drew 1-1 with in the reverse fixture last weekend after conceding a last gasp equaliser.

"It felt like a defeat," admitted Hare. "But had we not conceded that goal, it would probably have been one of our best away performances of the season. I think we can take a lot of positives out of that."

See our comprehensive sports coverage in the Observer every Friday.

Kiernan Hughes-Mason closes down a Horsham opponent. Picture courtesy Scott White

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Harry Stannard goes for goal against Horsham. Picture courtesy Scott White