Hastings United Football Club has adapted its game during its upturn in form, says manager Chris Agutter.
Hastings have won their last three matches, after losing their previous three, to sit second in the Bostik League South East Division at the halfway point in the season.
Speaking after the 2-0 victory away to Ashford United on New Year’s Day, Agutter said: “The players are learning all the time.
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“The problem is there’s a view that we play out from the back because I want to play out from the back and it looks nice, but it’s not that. We play out from the back because teams come after us, which gives us space to play into.
“Teams have now dropped off so what that then means is there’s less space to play into behind, we can play longer passes on top of their back four and pin teams in. So what we’ve done is we’ve adapted in reaction to what the opposition’s doing.
“When teams come after us and press us, we’ll do what we did early on in the season when I think teams thought they could come and play toe-to-toe.
“Ashford haven’t come after us today - they’ve done what a few teams have done, dropped off, and that’s meant we can pin them back in with longer diagonal passes.
“All the time we’re developing and we’re going to get more strings to our bow. But what people have got to remember is we’ve only got the players part-time so if you chop and change all the time in terms of your expectations and style you want to play in, you end up doing nothing particularly well.
“So what we need to do is layering it. We put the first layer in in terms of ‘this is what we want to look like’, but off the back of that we need to add more layers to then adapt to each game in its own right.”
Hastings, who are eight points behind leaders Cray Wanderers and five ahead of third-placed Whyteleafe, haven’t conceded a goal for around 245 minutes having beaten Ashford 2-0, Sevenoaks Town 1-0 and VCD Athletic 2-1.
“We’ve defended really well lately,” continued Agutter. “We’ve tweaked it a little bit in terms of how many players we’ve got in the back line, but I just think young players are learning all the time, and making less individual errors and less mistakes.
“Jamie Fielding over the last three games has made huge improvements so that’s what will happen with young players. Last season we had young players learning on the job, but there was no pressure (due to a mid-table league position). Whereas there’s now the pressure.
“Full credit to them. The same as after the VCD game and after the Sevenoaks game, the players deserve the credit because they’re playing very, very well and doing the basics better than they have done all season, which I think makes us look more solid.”
Having beaten the team that was top of the form table in Ashford, Hastings are now preparing to host the side bottom of the form guide.
Sixteenth-placed Sittingbourne will visit The Pilot Field today (Saturday) having lost seven of their last eight league encounters. Kick-off is 3pm.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 18-45 (+22 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 18-37 (+17), 3 Whyteleafe 18-32 (+16), 4 Horsham 18-32 (+11), 5 Haywards Heath Town 18-32 (+10), 6 Ashford United 18-30 (+12), 7 Hythe Town 19-30 (+5), 8 VCD Athletic 17-28 (+6), 9 Three Bridges 18-26 (-2), 10 Phoenix Sports 18-25 (+2).