Davide Rodari made a goalscoring return from a major injury as Hastings United Football Club recorded a precious victory today (Saturday).
Rodari was Hastings’ leading scorer last season, but underwent surgery in the summer on a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
All the hard rehabilitation work was rewarded with the opening goal in Hastings’ 2-0 win away to VCD Athletic - just 14 minutes after coming on as a substitute.
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The result ended a run of one win in Hastings’ previous seven matches and moved them up a place to fourth in the Bostik League South East Division. Hastings are now 10 points above the team one place outside the play-off spots, Hythe Town.
Hastings manager Chris Agutter made two changes to the side beaten 4-2 by Haywards Heath Town last weekend. New signing Gary Elphick went straight into the starting line-up and Ollie Black returned from injury, with Tom Climpson and James Pool making way.
With VCD just nine points below Hastings at kick-off having played two fewer matches, this was a big game - and Hastings produced a big performance.
The strong wind made things very difficult, but both teams tried to play football. Hastings possibly edged a goalless first half, although there were few clear chances at either end.
Hastings goalkeeper Louis Rogers tipped a shot from Ali Fuseini around the post early on, while at the other end, Youssouf Bamba fired over from the edge of the area, Jack Dixon shot just wide and Elphick forced a fine save from home stopper Jordan Beeney.
The visitors were gradually pressing more and more as the second period wore on. Ajakaiye shot whiskers wide before the breakthrough came in the 83rd minute.
Sam Cruttwell, who last weekend clocked up 250 appearances for the club, rattled the underside of the crossbar with a 25-yard free kick and Rodari volleyed in the rebound, sparking wild celebrations from his delighted team-mates, which were repeated after the final whistle.
Hastings wrapped up the points with a second goal four minutes after the first. Jordy Mongoy, also on as a substitute, evaded two or three opponents on his way into the area before finding the bottom corner with a great finish.
Hastings saw the game out comfortably thereafter to complete their third victory over VCD this season and first away win against anybody since New Year’s Day.
With the impressive Elphick marshaling the defence and making a number of clearances, Hastings looked solid at the back as they kept a first clean sheet in eight matches.
Lanre Azeez was a menace out wide, but there were strong performances all over the pitch from a Hastings side which put in a really good shift and battled for everything.
Hastings: Rogers, Black (Beale 90), Elphick, Cruttwell, Lovatt, Ajakaiye, Adams, Bamba (Rodari 69), Fielding, Azeez (Mongoy 75), Dixon. Subs not used: Janneh, Eweka. Attendance: 105.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 28-71 (+41 goal difference), 2 Horsham 29-55 (+20), 3 Ashford United 28-54 (+31), 4 HASTINGS UNITED 29-53 (+22), 5 Haywards Heath Town 28-52 (+17), 6 Hythe Town 29-43 (+7), 7 Whyteleafe 28-41 (+10), 8 VCD Athletic 27-41 (+1), 9 Ramsgate 29-36 (+2), 10 Phoenix Sports 28-36 (-4).