United squad playing for their places

Hastings United, pictured here against Westfield three weeks ago, have two more pre-season friendlies before the start of the new league season

Hastings United, pictured here against Westfield three weeks ago, have two more pre-season friendlies before the start of the new league season

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Hastings United player-manager Sean Ray says he still isn’t sure what his starting line-up will be when his side opens its league campaign next weekend.

The U’s have two more friendlies - away to Crowborough Athletic tomorrow (Saturday) and Newhaven on Tuesday night - before their first Ryman Football League Division One South fixture.

And Ray feels both matches are opportunities for his players to prove to him why they should make his starting line-up at Chipstead on Saturday August 10.

“We have a good, strong, experienced group,” Ray said. “But in all honesty I don’t know who will be in my first starting line-up yet. We have 180 minutes of pre-season left and in my mind positions are still all to play for.

“The last few matches have been really positive and we’ve really come on leaps and bounds since we kicked it up a level from the early part of pre-season.”

United have won both of their latest friendly fixtures over the past week. They firstly recovered from 2-0 down inside 10 minutes to beat a team of Gillingham youngsters 5-3 thanks to a brace of goals from Matt Maclean and substitute Sean Kelly, and one from Kenny Pogue.

Then on Tuesday night, second half goals from Maclean and a good header by Kelly in the last five minutes gave the U’s a deserved 2-1 win away to an Eastbourne United AFC side which took a first half lead against the run of play.

New defensive pair Andy Henson and Tom Gilbert, who have signed on a dual registration basis with Eastbourne Borough, played in both matches.

“We found our feet in both games, and our ball retention and shape were excellent in the end,” Ray continued. “We need to cut out the mistakes at the back as that’s what is costing us goals, but apart from that we’re looking good. The new lads came in and both did really well.”

United’s under-21 side, meanwhile, will host a Sidley United XI in a fundraising match for the Blues on Monday, kick-off 7.45pm.

Admission is £5 for adults and under-16s go free. All gate money will go into a Sidley United FC trust fund that Hastings United have kindly put in place in anticipation of the Blues starting back up next season.