Hastings United manager Chris Agutter has been well pleased with how the football club has acquitted itself against higher level opposition over the past week.
The Bostik League South East Division outfit drew 1-1 at home to Kingstonian on Saturday and was unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to another Premier Division side, Lewes, yesterday (Tuesday) in pre-season friendlies.
Agutter said: “We’ve done really well. I think we’ve been in really good shape actually. It’s clear what needs to be addressed, but we’re really happy with where we’re at.
“The biggest positive for me is how solid we look. Last season we would’ve needed Charlie (Horlock, goalkeeper) to pull off one or two great saves every game, but in the past two games against very good opposition, they haven’t cut us open at all.
“We look like we’re in a position where we can win 1-0, which is great. Jahmal (Howlett-Mundle) has been outstanding since he’s come in, but it’s not just the new players; we’ve changed how we set up and we’ve got a nice blend at the back where we look very solid and hard to break down.”
Kingstonian led at half time in Hastings’ first pre-season game at The Pilot Field with a goal which came from a Hastings mistake, but Hastings levelled in the 79th minute when Emmanuel Mensah headed in the rebound after Dayshonne Golding’s effort was saved.
Mensah is a former AFC Wimbledon full-back who signed for Hastings at the end of last week following an impressive pre-season trial.
Hastings: Horlock, Howlett-Mundle, Christie, Beale, Vickers, Lovatt, Mensah, Dixon, Ajakaiye, Walker, Ogboe. Subs: Cruttwell, Shonk, Poole, Janneh, Golding.
“Saturday against Kingstonian was a really stiff test against a team which I expect to be challenging in the league above,” continued Agutter. “It was really interesting to see how the players fared and they came through that test very well.”
The only goal against Lewes came from a second half penalty, although Agutter described the decision to award the spot-kick as ‘very strange’. Hastings came close several times at the other end.
Hastings: Horlock, Howlett-Mundle, Christie, Beale, Cruttwell, Lovatt, Mensah, Dixon, Ajakaiye, Janneh, Golding. Subs: Vickers, Fielding, Walker, Adams, Ogboe, Shonk.
“Against Lewes we had everything apart from the cutting edge and the final bit, but with a couple of weeks to go until the season, myself and the staff are really pleased,” Agutter went on.
“We had more of the ball than Kingstonian, and against Lewes it was complete and utter domination and control for 90 minutes. I was very impressed to see us dominate a side that had a great season last year and have certainly strengthened. It was a very, very good workout.”
Hastings also won 4-1 away to Rochester United on Monday. Ansu Janneh, Antonio Walker, Kelvin Ogboe and Austin Gann scored the goals, while several young players made their first team debuts.
Hastings will continue their friendlies by travelling to Walton Casuals this coming Saturday (1pm kick-off) before hosting Eastbourne United AFC on Monday (kick-off 7.45pm) and visiting Eastbourne Town on Tuesday (kick-off 7.45pm).
“For me it’s all about learning and being in a more knowledgeable position than we were the game before,” said Agutter. “As long as we get some sort of answers out of the game, that’s the main thing.
“We’ve got a lot of game time into the players, which is great. In all our games we’ve come on very strong. We look very fit and look match fit.
“Saturday will look a lot more like I would imagine us to look on the first game of the season against Thamesmead. It’s perhaps turning towards building good pairings and relationships, getting the right balance and the right relationships in the starting XI, cementing down pairings and how we want to look for Thamesmead.”
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