Hastings United Football Club made a winning start to the season for the sixth consecutive year.
Chris Agutter’s side came from behind to win 5-1 at home to Thamesmead Town in the Bostik League South East Division today (Saturday).
Strikes by Sam Adams and Sam Cruttwell gave Hastings a 2-1 half time lead before three goals in 11 minutes towards the end - the last two from Daniel Ajakaiye after an own goal - wrapped up the points, although the game was certainly closer than the score suggests.
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Agutter gave competitive debuts to summer signings Jahmal Howlett-Mundle and Kelvin Ogboe against a big and powerful Thamesmead side. Ajakaiye also started on his return to The Pilot Field following a brief loan spell last season.
Hastings fashioned a couple of decent chances in the first 10 minutes. Dayshonne Golding was denied by the feet of away goalkeeper William Godman having been put through by a lovely piece of control and pass from Ajakaiye, who then saw a half-hit shot saved following a terrific burst by Golding on the right.
Richard Pacquette came close to a spectacular opener for Thamesmead when he controlled a ball in from the away left and volleyed just over. At the other end, Ajakaiye was whiskers away from getting a decisive touch to Golding’s inviting low ball across goal.
The lightning quick Ajakaiye clipped a first time shot just over the top at the end of a splendid move involving Cruttwell and Golding before Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock came off his line well to deny Aaron McCullum, who tried to lift the ball over him.
After Ogboe beat his man nicely and fired into the side-netting, Thamesmead broke the deadlock in the 35th minute. Tom Vickers was dispossessed by McCullum, who delivered a good cross from the away left for Pacquette to score with a well-executed side-foot volley.
Hastings were level, however, within two minutes. Ogboe’s strike from outside the area rebounded off a Thamesmead defender to Adams, who found the bottom corner with a left-footed shot from the edge of the box.
After Pacquette headed wide at the far post following a good cross by former Hastings player Matt Bodkin, Hastings took the lead in the first minute of added time. Cruttwell curled a superb 25-yard free kick over the wall and just inside the near post.
Following an entertaining first half, there was fairly little goalmouth incident during the opening 20 minutes of the second period. Thamesmead were building momentum, though, as Bode Anidugbe flicked Bodkin’s low cross just over before Horlock saved bravely at the feet of Danny Parish, who was barely a yard from goal.
Hastings certainly weren’t comfortable at this stage, but they scored a third goal against the run of play in the 78th minute. Adams jinked his way past a couple of defenders in the away box and struck a left-footed shot which was going wide of the far post until Thamesmead defender Joe Denny sliced into his own net.
Thamesmead somehow failed to pull one back within a minute. Horlock saved from a clean through Anidugbe, Pacquette’s follow-up was brilliantly blocked on the line by Howlett-Mundle and a third effort was also blocked.
Having survived that almighty let-off, Hastings were untroubled thereafter. Ajakaiye pulled an angled shot narrowly wide of the far post having skipped past his man, but he did find the net in the 87th and 88th minutes.
He made it 4-1 from the penalty spot, via the goalkeeper’s toes, after Antonio Walker was brought down in the right-hand side of the area, and seconds after the restart, he picked up the ball midway inside Thamesmead’s half, surged past the last defender and finished coolly.
Hastings’ margin of victory was the biggest of anybody in the division on the opening day of the campaign.
Hastings: Horlock, Vickers (Climpson 67), Beale, Cruttwell, Howlett-Mundle, Janneh (Fielding 65), Golding, Lovatt, Ajakaiye, Adams, Ogboe (Walker 71). Subs not used: Dullaway, Christie. Attendance: 404.
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