Hastings United manager Chris Agutter is in bullish mood ahead of the football club’s third versus fourth clash.
Hastings will host Haywards Heath Town today (Saturday) in a key game in the battle for the Bostik League South East Division play-off spots. Kick-off at The Pilot Field is 3pm.
Agutter said: “We’re pretty confident. Our home record is immaculate. On our pitch we make it our game, and when we play our game and do it well - and work hard - we tend to win.
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“It’s really important we dictate to Haywards Heath. They’re on a decent run, but they’ve not had to come to The Pilot Field in that run of games. We’re going to look to dictate to them and make it clear on who’s boss.”
Hastings, who have won 11 and drawn one of their 13 home league fixtures so far this season, are one point and one place above today’s opponents.
Haywards Heath are top of the division’s form table for the last six games having picked up 16 points - 10 more than Hastings have garnered from the same period.
Asked what sort of a test he is expecting from a Haywards Heath side which beat Hastings 2-1 in December’s reverse fixture, Agutter said: “A stern test. They’re very similar to Faversham (who Hastings beat 2-1 in their last home game a fortnight ago), perhaps a little bit more basic than Faversham.
“They’re very direct and look to pick up seconds (second balls). It’s not what I would do in terms of how I would want my team to play, but there’s nothing wrong with what they do and they’re effective at it.”
Jack Dixon has completed his three-match suspension and is highly likely to start in midfield, but Jahmal Howlett-Mundle starts a two-game ban for 10 bookings and the injury list remains lengthy.
Sam Beale is out for 4-6 weeks with a hamstring problem, Youssouf Bamba is likely to be sidelined for 2-3 more weeks and Hassan Ibrahiym won’t play until April at the earliest because of a knee ligament issue.
Ollie Black (back) is doubtful and Charlie Curran is battling a hip problem, while Sam Adams, who Agutter said shouldn’t have played last weekend, and Lanre Azeez, who came off with a hamstring issue, will be assessed.
“Haywards Heath, for example, are able to pick the same sort of squad of players pretty regularly,” added Agutter. “We’ve not been able to do that for about three months. This is the hand we’ve been dealt - it’s tough, but it’s a great learning curve for us.
“I think they’re all important games to be honest. It’s an exciting time of the season and it’s what we’ve all been working towards.
“The pressure that we feel is a privilege, which is a credit to the players in terms of the position they’ve got themselves in - fighting for promotion at the beginning of March.
“We’re very calm and very relaxed, we’re playing well. We know that it’s small margins. We need to remain positive and keep doing what we’re doing. All the time we keep playing the way we are, we’ll pick up more results than not.
“We’ve had four different pro clubs watching our players. If we weren’t doing something right, we wouldn’t be getting the attention and looks from higher up the levels at our players.”
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 26-65 (+38 goal difference), 2 Horsham 27-52 (+21), 3 HASTINGS UNITED 27-50 (+22), 4 Haywards Heath Town 27-49 (+15), 5 Ashford United 26-48 (+26), 6 Whyteleafe 26-41 (+13), 7 Hythe Town 27-40 (+7), 8 VCD Athletic 25-38 (+2), 9 Ramsgate 27-35 (+5), 10 Phoenix Sports 26-35 (-3).