Darren Hare said ‘this is just the start’ after Hastings United Football Club’s promotion hopes ended in gallant disappointment.
United were pipped 4-3 on penalties after a pulsating Ryman Football League Division One South play-off semi-final away to Dorking Wanderers on Tuesday night.
The game was level at 1-1 after normal and extra-time. United led through Frannie Collin’s 73rd minute goal only for James McShane to level 12 minutes later.
“We’re a bit sad and deflated, but mindful that this is just the start,” said United manager Hare. “My job’s to sit down with the club and find out what direction they want to go in. We’ll take stock of that this week and hopefully we can get a clear vision of where we want to get to.
“It’s been my first year as a manager at this level. I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’ve learnt an awful lot and I think I’m better for it. I know what we need to get, what type of player I need to sign.
“If we can keep the nucleus of the team together, we’ve got a massive chance again next year. I’ve got to make sure I recruit properly and keep the ones I want to keep.”
United ended Hare’s first season at The Pilot Field as the highest league goalscorers in the top eight tiers of English football with 128 in the regular season and 150 in all competitions.
“Going forwards we’re sublime,” Hare continued. “We’ve conceded an awful lot of goals and scored a lot of goals. I think we’ve played some attractive stuff for the most part and we’ve entertained. We want to make sure we carry that on and get a positive end result in terms of where we finish.
“I would like to add another centre-forward, maybe another winger, but certainly in central midfield we need some support for Simon Johnson and defensively I think we need to have a bit of competition for places.”
Only champions Tooting & Mitcham United possessed a better goal difference than United, who scored exactly twice as many goals as they conceded, and just the top two lost fewer matches.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, and there’s been a level of inconsistency about us,” Hare went on. “I think that’s normal when you’re constructing a new team.
“Dorking have been consistently consistent. They’ve won games where you need to go and win games and we’ve not quite been able to do that.
“I think the last three months where our results have improved that’s been down to having a settled shape and team. At any level you can’t always do it in a year; you need a bit of time.”
Hare said he was proud of his players against Dorking, as he has been all season, and felt United were the better team on the night.
“It was a good game and there were some very good players on show,” said an always gracious Hare. “Both teams have got some outstanding talent and I’m sure both teams would comfortably survive in the Ryman Premier, if not push for a play-off spot, but I think we just edged it.
“We created the better chances, but it just didn’t go our way and we ended up going out in the most difficult circumstances. When it goes to penalties it’s all a bit of lottery, but they finished 23 points above us and beat us twice in the league so if there was any luck going, in fairness it should’ve gone to them.”
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