Hastings United boss relishing top-of-the-table clash

Hastings United midfielder Adam Lovatt tussles for possession during Tuesday night's Sussex Senior Challenge Cup win away to Saltdean United. Picture courtesy Scott White
Hastings United midfielder Adam Lovatt tussles for possession during Tuesday night's Sussex Senior Challenge Cup win away to Saltdean United. Picture courtesy Scott White

Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter is looking forward with optimism to today’s (Sunday’s) top-of-the-table clash.

Second-placed Hastings will travel to leaders Cray Wanderers in a hotly-anticipated Bostik League South East Division encounter. Kick-off is 3pm.

Agutter said: “We’ve not watched Cray and gone ‘this is going to define our season’ because I don’t think it will. It’s another team that are in our way and we need to come up with a solution to beat. I’m really looking forward to it and I think it will be a really good game for the neutral.”

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Hastings are seven points behind still unbeaten Cray with two games in hand having won eight and lost one of their nine league fixtures so far.

“The way Cray play suits us,” continued Agutter. “People talk about playing out from the back and ability to create chances, but what gets overlooked as our best attribute is our pressing.

“Similar to Greenwich Borough, Cray won’t change - they will try to put their game on us and that will give us an opportunity to do what we do best and that’s our high pressing game.

“I’ve got a lot of time for Cray. I admire what they’ve done and the way they try to play their way, but there’s nothing to fear. We respect what they’re about and they’ve got good players, but we can go there and win.

“The pitch is 3G, which suits us as well. The way Cray play, and where they play in terms of the facility and ground, suits us. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Hastings will be back in action less than 48 hours afterwards as they will host second-bottom Herne Bay on Tuesday night, kick-off 7.45pm.

The Cray match was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was put back 24 hours after Bromley - Cray’s landlords - were drawn at home in the Emirates FA Cup.

“The fact that we’re playing Sunday, Tuesday is a nonsense, especially when we’ve got plenty of dates free later on in the season,” continued Agutter.

“It’s not ideal, but I’m not going to complain about two games in three days. We’re fit and we’ve got a big squad to pick from.”

That squad was in evidence as Hastings came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 away to Southern Combination League Premier Division outfit Saltdean United in round two of the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup this Tuesday.

“After a difficult first half to come back from 2-0 down and win 4-2 is really pleasing,” said Agutter. “It could’ve been seven or eight in the end. A good result with some really decent performances.

“There’s good competition for places. Players that have come in have done well - Dayshonne (Golding) played well, Antonio Walker came off the bench and I thought he was outstanding again. Adam Lovatt’s performance, Jack Dixon’s performance, Daniel Ajakaiye again just superb. Lots of positives to take from it.

“I think a few people were maybe a bit surprised we went as strong as we did, but I think it’s a competition we can win and we want to win games of football.

“I think we’ve all got a common goal. All the players have the mentality of we before me. Everyone appreciates it’s a long season and we’ve all got one aim - to win games of football.”

Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 11-31 (+20 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 9-24 (+15), 3 Hythe Town 11-22 (+7), 4 Phoenix Sports 12-21 (+5), 5 VCD Athletic 11-21 (+5), 6 Whyteleafe 9-18 (+8), 7 Horsham 10-16 (0), 8 Ramsgate 11-15 (+2), 9 Haywards Heath Town 11-15 (+2), 10 Sevenoaks Town 11-15 (0).

Hastings United’s upcoming fixtures (league unless stated): November 11 Cray Wanderers (a), November 13 Herne Bay (h), November 17 Whitstable Town (h), November 20 Merstham (h) Velocity Trophy 2nd round, November 24 Faversham Town (a), November 27 Whyteleafe (a), December 1 East Grinstead Town (h).