Hastings United Football Club will be eager to halt a run of back-to-back Bostik League Division One South defeats when it travels to Thamesmead Town today (Saturday).
Twelfth-placed Hastings are one position and one point above Thamesmead, who play their home fixtures at the impressive ground of National League South leaders Dartford. Kick-off is 3pm.
“I think Thamesmead will be similar to Sittingbourne (who Hastings lost 2-0 against last weekend),” said Hastings manager Chris Agutter. “They will be looking to get the ball in behind our back four quickly and off the back of our clearances they will look to put second balls back into dangerous areas.
“Everything will go in our box. They’ll be basic, but effective with it. The players will be prepared to deal with it.”
Hastings conceded two late goals to lose 2-1 in October’s reverse fixture, after which Agutter opted to build for the future with a very young squad.
“Like I said to the players before the Herne Bay game (which Hastings won 3-0), I think we owed them one,” Agutter said. “I think it’s the same against Thamesmead.
“We will have a far better side than what we were when we previously played them. Irrelevant of the result on Saturday, I know the progress we’ve made and we go into it confident because we’ve played very well against Sittingbourne.
“It’s a lovely pitch, a big pitch, which suits us. We want to play a certain way and having a decent surface will help that. I’m looking forward to it and the players are.”
Hastings conceded twice in the opening six minutes against Sittingbourne and falling behind early on in matches has become a bit of an unwanted trend over the last four weeks.
“It’s something we’re looking to address,” continued Agutter. “Six weeks ago we were starting games like a house on fire, like VCD (Athletic) and Guernsey. We could’ve been five or six up at half time in both of those games and then played poorly in the second half.
“Unfortunately, like I said when I initially went with the younger players, we’ve got to accept those fluctuations and inconsistencies in performance. I don’t put it all down to them being young, but there certainly needs to be some consideration for that.
“In that first six minutes it was two individual mistakes; it wasn’t the team not being prepared or focused or equipped or organised. Two individual errors which we got punished for; I’m not too stressed about it.”
Loan signing Daniel Ajakaiye, who Agutter hopes to retain for the rest of the season, will be fully fit and Antonio Walker should return.
Tom Vickers and Sam Cole both played 90 more minutes for Crowborough Athletic this week as they step up their recovery from injury. Vickers is likely to play two more games for the Crows before returning to Hastings, while Cole could come back in early February.
Sonny Dullaway is back in training after injury and will probably be ready to feature for the academy and development squad in the next couple of weeks.
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