Chris Agutter said he felt a sense of vindication after Hastings United Football Club’s splendid victory last weekend.
Hastings won 4-2 in a richly entertaining Bostik League Division One South game away to Thamesmead Town.
Hastings lost 2-1 in the reverse fixture less than three months earlier, after which their manager, Agutter, decided to build for the future with a new young squad.
He said: “Thamesmead at home was the catalyst for us going in the right direction. To go there and win in the manner that we did was very satisfying.
“I just felt vindicated a little bit. It was three months since we played them previously and we were so much further down the line. We tore them to bits to be honest.
“Their manager did say ‘the improvement you’ve made is massive’. He couldn’t believe the difference in terms of how much more mobile we were and how much more athletic we were.”
After Sam Cruttwell’s free kick gave Hastings a half time lead, goals in quick succession from Calum Davies and Sam Adams made it 3-0. Davies added his second and Hastings’ fourth goal straight after Thamesmead opened their account.
“It was a great game,” continued Agutter. “As much as it was an entertaining game for the neutral, we were never in danger. They came on strong in the last 20 minutes, but by then we were 3-0 up.
“We stopped the recent habits of conceding early goals and really for the entire first 45 minutes we were on the front foot, very aggressive in our play and missed so many opportunities. We played really well and it should’ve been three.
“It wasn’t until we went 3-0 up they had a bit of a spell. They went from back to front very quickly and smashed it up to Paul Vines, who was a right handful.
“But in that spell where they came on strong, we could’ve scored four and our fourth goal was the best goal I’ve seen since being the manager. The move involved nine different players and epitomised how I want us to play.”
The game was played in difficult wet conditions at the home of National League South leaders Dartford, but Hastings coped commendably well.
“I looked at the game and thought ‘this is going to be really tough because they’re a big, strong, powerful side’,” Agutter said. “They’re basic, but know what they’re doing.
“I said to the players ‘today’s a day to roll your sleeves up, take a bit of responsibility and do the ugly things well’ and we absolutely battered them for 70 minutes.”
Although Daniel Ajakaiye is still struggling with his ankle, Hastings are close to having a clean bill of health on the injury front. Tom Vickers has now played 90 minutes for Crowborough Athletic five times and will return to Hastings after one last appearance for the Crows this weekend.
“The squad’s looking really strong and it’s exciting as well,” added Agutter. “We had pace and power going forward in the front five, and after an hour we put even more pace and power on the pitch, and ran them into the ground. Antonio Walker was excellent after he came on.”