Tuesday 6th October, cold with the occasional shower. The pitch in a reasonable condition despite regular downpours. United wearing a combination of claret shirts, sky blue shorts and white socks, whilst Haywards Heath turn out in a white with a broad-blue striped shirt, white shorts and blue socks.
For United a slight shuffle of players, a display of versatility. Craig Stone stepping into midfield with Jake Elliott moving from right-back to centre-half. Marcus Goldsmith slotting in at right-back.
Heath get us underway but there’s an immediate injury to United’s Aaron Capon which concludes in him being replaced by Kenny Pogue before we’ve even really started. As a result, the game takes ten minutes to settle down. When it does, Pogue is involved with an early ball into the channel for Ben Pope to collect. It’s a half-chance at best and Pope tries his luck left-footed without troubling the goalkeeper.
Fifteen minutes in and there’s another half chance. Louis Rogers punts a long clearance into the centre-circle, neatly controlled by Adams who plays a deft one-two with Pope, a space opens up but Adams’ shot from 25 yards is high and wide of the target. Signs though of United settling to their task.
With the game still scoreless the home side themselves have a decent chance. A corner from the left is cleared before being played out to the right for another cross which is headed over from 12 yards.
Minutes later it is United who take the lead. Tom Chalmers tricks his way to the very edge of the area and is tripped just outside. Adams lines it up and curls his free kick low, around the wall and into the bottom corner to open the scoring.
And from there United are in control, building patiently from the back, nothing gung-ho. Indeed, United’s second arrives around five minutes after the period of play leading up to the goal starts. Over two and a half minutes of possession go by before Stone switches tactic and goes direct with a long ball to Pogue who tees up Pope. His shot is blocked and cleared but back come United through Ryan Worrall, continuing with the direct approach with a ball for Pope to chase into the corner. He does brilliantly to turn and cross for the arriving Adams to crash in a shot which deflects off the goalkeeper and loops into the net.
Half time: Haywards Heath Town 0 – 2 Hastings United
United kick off the second-half and are on the attack immediately. Pope again chases a long ball into the corner and wins a free kick which is punched clear by the Heath goalkeeper back to Worrall who crosses again.
The goalkeeper punches again but falls awkwardly and play is stopped despite Chalmers having dangerous possession in the penalty area. The upshot is a drop-ball on the edge of the area which United win, Chalmers gets free down the right and crosses low where Pogue is on hand to side-foot home and the ‘U’s are three goals to the good.
Minutes later and it is four goals.
A corner is hit deep, attackers and defenders challenge in the air, the ball drops invitingly eight yards out and Pogue steers home with minimum fuss.
Not surprisingly a lull follows. Two quick goals and United are more than satisfied while Heath’s half-time team talk is already a distant memory.
Fair play to the home side though. They keep plugging away and there is reward on the hour. Heath switch play from left to right and swing in a deep low cross which is prodded in by Nico Cotton to reduce the arrears.
After the lull, and a goal back, there is a period of scrappy play. Heath trying to force their way back into the game from a position of having nothing to lose, while United are content to let them huff and puff.
With fifteen minutes remaining Pope is replaced by one of United’s new signings Knorry Scott. He’s immediately into the action picking the ball up in midfield and freeing Chalmers down the right who plays a reverse pass back to Scott to hammer goalward, tipped over by the goalkeeper.
From the corner Pogue completes his hat-trick in style. Worrall clips over the cross and Pogue, running left to right, leaps high and bullets a header into the far corner from 12 yards.
There’s ten minutes remaining but the game is over, and everyone knows it.
Full time: Haywards Heath Town 1 – 5 Hastings United
United continued where they left off against Ebbsfleet and Haywards Heath were unable to match them. The ‘U’s were composed at the back, tenacious in midfield, swift in attack. After two scoreless draws in the league, hitting five goals and securing those first three points means United are well and truly up and running.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall, Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Pope (Scott 75’, Greig 82’), Adams, Chalmers, Goldsmith, Capon (Pogue 6’) (Unused subs: Barlow, Ray)
Haywards Heath Town: Collings, Morrison, Summerfield, Napper, Osei, T Gilbert, Batchelor (J Gilbert 45’), Wilson, Ogunseye (Dalhouse 45’), Clark, Cotton (Monteiro 68’) (Unused subs: Tran-West, Bromage)
Next game: Home to early league leaders VCD Athletic on Saturday 10th October, kick off at 3pm.