The first home Sussex derby of their Isthmian South East Division league season sees the ‘U’s welcome Whitehawk FC to The Pilot Field this Tuesday, with both sides putting their unbeaten records on the line.
This early season top-of-the-table encounter, with Hastings sitting 3rd and the Hawks in 2nd after five games, will also be notable as the first league meeting between the two since 2013 as the two sides’ histories have rarely aligned, writes Will Hugall.
Amongst three Sussex sides to lead the Isthmian South East Division table after five games (with Chichester City), the U’s and Hawks have both achieved rapid starts this season, albeit from rather different positions coming into 2019-20.
Looking to build on the play-off finish of 2018-19, Chris Agutter’s ‘U’s are actually a point worse off than at the same stage last year, when a searing start saw them race to the top of the table.
They have still achieved an impressive feat in that context, however, by going unbeaten from their opening five games - the first time they have done so since 2013-14.
For the men from the TerraPura Ground, meanwhile, keeping faith with boss Jude Macdonald after relegation from the Isthmian Premier has proven a prudent move. They have been rewarded with their best points haul after five games since 2011-12, an Isthmian South-winning season for the side.
Beyond how the seasons begins, though, the fixture also highlights the importance of local rivalries in the fight for positions later in the year.
This season’s Isthmian South East Division features seven Sussex clubs – a record since the Isthmian South’s eight in 2013-14 – and on that basis, alongside current form, it is easy to believe that derby results may be decisive in the promotion places.
Hastings United vs Whitehawk – Match History
Though they have met twice in friendlies since, the most recent competitive fixtures between Hastings and the Hawks were in the 2012-13 season, when the teams both exited the Isthmian Premier Division.
Despite sharing honours that season, with the U’s winning an Isthmian League Cup tie while the Hawks won four points from league meetings, Sean Ray’s team faced relegation while today’s opponents were promoted as champions, delaying the chance of a rematch for all of six seasons.
Other than another League Cup meeting in October 2010 – in which current ‘U’s captain Sam Adams scored twice in a 3-3 draw before converting in a shoot-out victory – there is limited further history between the two teams.
With no FA Cup, Vase or Trophy history to speak of, the majority of meetings remain in an eight-year spell between 1977 and 1985, when the teams spent seven seasons together in the Sussex County League. Hastings Town finished higher on five of those occasions, while Whitehawk won the First Division title in 1983-84.
The match kicks off at 7:45 p.m. this evening at The Pilot Field (Elphinstone Road, TN34 2AX). Full directions to the ground are available here.
Admission is £10 for adults, £6 for concessions, and Under-16’s go free.
Further information on tonight’s opposition is available from https://whitehawkfc.com/, while details of all of tonight’s Isthmian Division fixtures can be found at https://www.betvictoristhmian.co.uk/.