Five-star Hastings United begin year with emphatic win
Hastings United produced a magnificent New Year’s Day performance, in front of a season high attendance, beating East Grinstead Town 5-1.
First-half goals from Jake Elliott, Daniel Ajakaiye, Jack Dixon and a Ben Pope penalty put United firmly in control. Dixon scored his second before East Grinstead’s consolation by which time the points were secure.
A much changed East Grinstead arrived at the Pilot Field with only one player from the 12-3 defeat in their starting line-up. With United’s tormentor-in-chief, David Rodari, unavailable, the Wasps may have thought their chances of a result had improved. United though had other ideas and scored four times in six devastating minutes.
In the early exchanges it was clear United’s passing game was on song. Elliott threaded a pass inside the full-back for Lanre Azeez to fire in a low cross which the goalkeeper claimed. On eight minutes their roles reversed. This time Elliott played a one-two with Azeez and from the angle Elliott’s cross-come-shot landed in the top corner to open the scoring.
From the restart United won the ball back and a long pass from Craig Stone released Ajakaiye on the left wing. He broke through the last defenders tackle and sprinted clear to finish clinically.
A third goal followed immediately. Elliott passed accurately down the right wing to Pope who pulled the ball back to Dixon on the edge of the area. A step inside the defender and a right foot drive had the crowd on their feet again.
And then a fourth. Dixon found Ajakaiye in space again only to be upended as he jinked his way into the area. Pope dispatched the penalty with minimum fuss
Fifteen minutes in and East Grinstead had done little wrong, yet found themselves four goals adrift.
For the second home game in succession, United ended the half four goals to the good.
East Grinstead conjured a first shot on target five minutes into the second-half, but this simply spurred United to hit a fifth goal. Pope won the ball on half-way and gave Ajakaiye another opportunity to drive into the area, his low cross was fired home by the arriving Dixon.
Five almost became six. More trickery by Ajakaiye saw him fouled some twenty-five yards out. Ryan Worrall struck the free-kick narrowly wide. So close in fact, many in the main stand thought he’d scored. Then Ajakaiye, deserving of a second goal, hammered a shot against the post/bar junction from twenty yards.
With minutes remaining United were caught playing the ball out from the back to gift East Grinstead a consolation. Not to worry. United weaving intricate patterns all over the pitch, first time passes and excellent running off the ball all contributed to what was an emphatic victory.
Man of the Match: Daniel Ajakaiye played the game at full pace and ran the defence ragged time and time again.
Hastings United: Rogers, Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Ajakaiye (66’ Pogue), Pope, Worrall, Lovatt (63’ Pool), Azeez (63’ Adams), Dixon (Unused subs: Black, Hull)
Next game: Saturday 4th December away to Whyteleafe, kick-off 3pm.