A heavily depleted Hastings United Football Club squad ended 2017 with a splendid victory this afternoon (Saturday).
Despite being without several players due to a virus and only possessing two substitutes, Hastings produced a dominant performance to win 3-0 away to Herne Bay.
A brace of Davide Rodari goals and one from Sam Beale helped Hastings move up three places to ninth in Bostik Football League Division One South.
Although down to the bare bones, Hastings were on their game right from the start and completely dominated throughout. Indeed if it hadn’t been for Herne Bay goalkeeper Ben Hunter, who pulled off six or seven very good saves, the margin of victory would’ve been far greater.
Hunter made a brilliant stop to his left from Rodari after five minutes. After a subsequent Hunter stop, the rebound was cleared off the line and Ansu Janneh hit the post with a second follow-up effort. From the corner that followed, Hastings were again denied by a goal-line clearance.
Hastings had a golden opportunity to open the scoring when they were awarded a penalty after Calum Davies was brought down in the box. Rodari saw his spot-kick saved, however, and Janneh’s follow-up was also kept out.
Despite losing the dangerous-looking Antonio Walker to injury, Hastings continued to carve out goalscoring opportunities against a Herne Bay team captained by former Hastings defender Jono Richardson and which also featured Danny Leonard, who had a short spell with Hastings at the end of last season.
They eventually made the breakthrough in the 45th minute. Rodari was brought down after cutting in from the left and showed good character after missing the previous penalty to bury the second spot-kick, giving Hastings a well-deserved half time lead.
With Herne Bay playing down the slope in the second period, you expected them to come out strongly after the turnaround. But Hastings started well and doubled their advantage within five minutes of the restart, Beale going down the left and firing a cross-shot into the far corner.
Herne Bay, who began the day one point and one place above Hastings in the table, struggled to get the ball off Hastings thereafter as the visitors were totally dominant in possession. Any danger was quickly snuffed out and Charlie Horlock was untroubled in the away goal.
Hunter produced two or three more good stops and Kenny Pogue, a half time replacement for Jack Dixon, hit the crossbar with a header from a Hastings corner.
Herne Bay were reduced to 10 men midway through the second half after Connor Wilkins was sent-off and Hastings completed the scoring with a third goal in the 87th minute. Rodari applied the finish at the end of a good passing move to score his second of the afternoon.
Hastings could have added to their tally in the short time that remained, against a side which came from 2-0 down to beat them 4-2 in September’s reverse fixture.
Beale was excellent at left-back, Sam Adams totally controlled the midfield and Janneh kept driving forward as Hastings chalked up their 10th league win of the campaign.
Hastings: Horlock, Dixon (Pogue), Beale, Cruttwell, Rowe, Climpson, Rodari, Adams, Davies, Janneh, Walker (Ebuzoene). Attendance: 268.
Bostik League Division One South top half (played-points): 1 Lewes 26-57, 2 Cray Wanderers 25-54, 3 Walton Casuals 27-52, 4 Carshalton Athletic 27-52, 5 Greenwich Borough 27-51, 6 Corinthian-Casuals 27-50, 7 Hythe Town 27-42, 8 Phoenix Sports 27-41, 9 HASTINGS UNITED 26-38, 10 Thamesmead Town 25-37, 11 Whyteleafe 27-37, 12 South Park 23-36.