Chris Agutter says the present Hastings United Football Club squad is the strongest it’s been during his 18-month stint as manager.
A combination of new signings and players returning from injury has left Agutter with options aplenty for the Bostik League South East Division run-in.
He said: “It’s the strongest the squad’s been since I’ve been manager, 100 percent. On Saturday we had an incredible bench and it’s a really good position to be in.
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“If players don’t perform, there’s an alternative that’s just as good as them, if not better, waiting in the wings.
“We’ve not got lots of the same either, we’ve got a really nice blend. I think the squad’s far better than the level (it’s playing at); we just need to make sure we prove that.”
Bradley Stevenson and Jack Tucker have arrived on loan from Gillingham until the end of the campaign, while Hassan Ibrahiym made a goalscoring return from injury for the development squad on Monday night.
There have also been a couple of departures over the past week, with Youssouf Bamba returning to Walton Casuals and Temi Eweka to VCD Athletic.
With Hastings closing in on a play-off spot, the points-per-game situation will come increasingly into focus. Of the play-off winners in the seven step four leagues across the country, only the five teams with the best points-per-game average will be promoted.
“It’s more the points per game ratio now which becomes the priority,” continued Agutter. “It’s nice to get two home games in the play-offs by finishing second, but the priority is firstly getting in the play-offs and once we get the play-offs (place) secured, making sure we keep our points per game ratio as high as possible.”
Hastings continued their good run of form with a 3-1 win away to 10-man Three Bridges last weekend.
“It was a very disciplined, professional performance,” added Agutter. “They went a goal ahead out of nowhere really and that prompted us to go through the gears a little bit. We got the game won and saw it out relatively comfortably.
“It was one of those games I would’ve been reluctant to pay to watch, but we got the job done. Their game plan was evidently to rough us up - Davide (Rodari) got kicked from pillar to post for 90 minutes, so did Lanre (Azeez) and Bradley Stevenson - but the players were professional and disciplined.
“Other than a 15-minute spell before half time I don’t think we got out of second gear.”
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 30-72 (+40 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 31-59 (+25), 3 Horsham 31-59 (+22), 3 Ashford United 30-58 (+32), 5 Haywards Heath Town 30-56 (+19), 6 Hythe Town 31-47 (+10), 7 VCD Athletic 30-47 (+1), 8 Whyteleafe 30-42 (+8), 9 Phoenix Sports 30-40 (-3), 10 Ramsgate 31-38 (+2).