Hastings United back on top after dramatic finale

Daniel Ajakaiye sealed the win. Picture by Scott White
Daniel Ajakaiye sealed the win. Picture by Scott White

Two goals in the final minutes of a hard-fought encounter secured Hastings United a 3-1 victory against Sevenoaks Town and propelled them back to the top of the league.

After a goalless first-half the game burst into life with a goal for both sides, a red card, a penalty saved and strikes against the woodwork. With the contest heading towards a draw, substitute Ryan Worrall’s stunner put United back in front before Daniel Ajakaiye sealed the win.

Sevenoaks began the day as league leaders and set themselves up to frustrate the hosts by playing a high defensive line and putting the onus on United to find a way through. With Sevenoaks pressing front to back there was little space in a congested midfield and United were forced into hitting long balls which the Sevenoaks defence dealt with comfortably. It was a half of numerous block tackles, free-kicks for innocuous fouls and little action in the penalty areas. Move along now, nothing to see here.

Anyone who witnessed the first-half could not have predicted the action which was to follow. From the kick-off United’s Ben Pope and Jack Dixon put the Sevenoaks defence under pressure, the ball was lost to Ajakaiye, who played in Dixon to thump into the top corner from ten yards. Just 25 seconds of the second-half on the clock.

They say you are most vulnerable immediately after scoring, and so it proved. For the first time in the game Sevenoaks strung passes together, eventually Gordon fed Sawyer to poke an equaliser into the bottom corner.

The game finally had momentum. Dixon’s header was athletically tipped around the post by Lee, and when Dixon’s head met the resulting corner the ball was cleared off the line to huge appeals for handball. While the referee was unmoved the linesman raised his flag, a penalty was awarded and De Silva shown a red card. Sam Adams struck the penalty well only for Lee to produce an excellent save.

United continued to create chances. Ajakaiye and Pope had shots saved before Lanre Azeez fired into the side-netting. Sevenoaks then broke forward and after a touch of ping-pong Fowler hit a 20-yarder which rattled the crossbar.

On 75 minutes Lee made another save to tip over Worrall’s header. Sevenoaks were penned in and their clearances repeatedly gave the ball straight back to United, but it was still 1 – 1.

With minutes remaining Dixon and Pope had shots blocked before the ball fell to Worrall 25 yards out. A quick look up and an exquisite right-footer curved away from the keeper and into the top corner. A shot hit with power and accuracy, and a goal worthy of winning any game.

There was still time for Pope to shoot against the post, then Ajakaiye outmuscled the defender and drove into the area before poking the ball underneath Lee.

Full-time: Hastings United 3 – 1 Sevenoaks Town.

Man of the Match: Daniel Ajakaiye – Involved throughout the game and fully deserving of his goal.

Hastings United: Rogers, Elphick (56’ Black), Stone, Beale, Ajakaiye, Pope, Adams (69’ Worrall), Lovatt, Azeez (81’ Rodari), Dixon (Unused subs: Chalmers, Pogue)

Sevenoaks Town: Lee, Walker, Gordon, Cumber (66’ Parkinson), Ripley, Gorham (66’ Miles), De Silva, Fowler, Stone, Sawyer (84’ Everett), Richardson-Brown (Unused subs: Fiddes, Schafer)

Attendance: 508

Next game: Saturday 12th October away to Hythe Town, kick-off 3pm (FA Trophy).