Hastings United held by Herne Bay in scoreless draw

Hastings United’s unblemished home league record ended after a battling encounter with 6th placed Herne Bay which finished with neither sides defence having been breached.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 10:56 am
Ben Pope in action against Sevenoaks on Saturday. Picture by Scott White

United, unchanged from last Saturday’s draw, were not only looking to continue their 100% record but also seeking to take full advantage of this, their long-standing game in hand. Herne Bay, in a smart Napoli blue kit, arrived at the Pilot field on the back of a 2 – 0 home victory and in recent weeks have won away at both Guernsey and Cray Valley.

The opening exchanges saw Herne Bay allowing United to pass the ball between themselves at the back, and with all eleven of their players sitting deep in front of them, there was little space to play a forward pass.

It took fifteen minutes for the game to open up for the briefest of time. Sam Adams and Daniel Ajakaiye combined only for the move to break down but Ajakaiye blocked the Herne clearance. Jack Dixon collected and fired in a shot forcing George Kamurasi into a full-length dive to parry away. The rebound fell to Ben Pope whose shot bounced clear off Kamurasi’s legs. Seconds later the ball landed with Pope again and in an exact repeat his shot hit the goalkeeper’s legs again.

Abruptly Herne Bay changed their tactics. After allowing United’s back-four time on the ball they began to mix it up, sometimes pushing on and closing down. It forced a mistake and Herne gained possession on the edge of the area. A low shot required Louis Rogers to save and minutes later another shot from distance forced another save from United’s keeper.

Herne Bay were certainly giving a good account of themselves and United were living off the scraps. Keiron Campbell, a left-winger full of speed and trickery, cut out a midfield pass, steamed forward and passed to Zak Ansah whose shot was plucked out of the air by Rogers.

United put their best move of the half together on the stroke of half-time. Adams, Jarod Aboagye and Lanre Azeez worked their way down the right and into the area. Aboagye seemed to be fouled and as the penalty claims were waved away Azeez was upended on the very edge of the box. The referee appeared to award a penalty based upon his assistants’ raised flag but after a brief consultation reverted to a free-kick for the foul on Azeez. The resulting cross was cleared, and the half-time whistle blew.

A close hard-fought encounter was anticipated and that is exactly what happened. Little to warm the punters hands on a bitterly cold evening.

Half-time: Hastings United 0 – 0 Herne Bay

The second-half immediately promised more. Aboagye cleverly worked himself out of a tight corner before Adams freed Azeez down the right. His cross landed with Ajakaiye who teed up Adams to rifle a shot just a foot of so over the bar.

United were then caught out at the back again and Rogers was called into action, tipping over a rather tame shot from an advantageous position. Herne will look back and think that was an excellent opportunity spurned.

There was a clear difference from the first-half though. United’s midfield were swarming around, forcing themselves into the game and typified by the creation of a half-chance. Once more Aboagye and Azeez got away down the right allowing Pope to charge into the area, his pull back was perfect for the arriving Azeez only for the winger to slip at an inopportune moment and the chance went begging.

A succession of United corners followed but just as it seemed the ‘U’s were finally warming to their task, it was Herne Bay who created the best chance of the game. Right-winger Tushaun-Tyreese Walters sped to the by-line, delivered a low cross to Ansah and somehow his shot, from inside the six-yard box, was kept out by Rogers or the bar, or maybe a combination of the two.

The final quarter of the game became fragmented, disrupted by injuries and substitutions. United bombarded the visitors with a number of long throws only for Herne to repel all attempts. And Herne themselves brought Rogers back into the game with more shots from the edge of the area.

In the 94th minute, United had one final opportunity to snatch a win. A freekick on half-way allowed everyone to crowd into the Herne area only for Rogers to misdirect his pass and the game was up. The draw appeared a fair result. Neither side deserved to lose and neither had done enough to come out as the victor.

Full-time: Hastings United 0 – 0 Herne Bay

Man of the Match: For the second home game running United’s stopper Louis Rogers. Mostly had to deal with shots from distance but did so with aplomb to record his 12th clean sheet of the league campaign.

Another tough game navigated for United and although it only gleaned one point, the end result is a six-point lead at the top of the table having now played the same number of games as Ashford United. With a significant goal difference of +27 that’s almost as good as seven points. The home game against Ashford United on 8th February is beginning to look extremely enticing.

Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Aboagye (75’ Beale), Elphick, Stone, Ajakaiye, Pope (81’ Pogue), Adams, Worrall (54’ Pool), Azeez, Dixon (Unused subs: Chalmers, Pool)

Herne Bay: Kamurasi, Cooper, Carrington, Harvey, Adonis-Taylor, Dawodu (71’ Lightfoot), Walters, Carlton, Ansah, Lawrence, Campbell (87’ Saunders) (Unused subs: Nzuzi)

Attendance: 510

Next game: Saturday 1st February at home to VCD Athletic, kick-off 3pm.