Hastings United top the table after early goal of the season contender

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Ryan Worrall thunderbolt settles a competitive encounter away to Sevenoaks Town

After a goalless first-half, Ryan Worrall hit a thunderbolt of a goal eleven minutes into the second-half to settle a competitive encounter away to Sevenoaks Town. The one-nil win takes the ‘U’s to the top of the table for the first time this season. Jake Elliott almost doubled the lead before Louis Rogers pulled off a stunning save with twenty minutes remaining to ensure the points travelled back to Hastings.

Saturday 24th October, the afternoon is cold, wet and windy but there’s no danger of abandonment as the pitch is 3G. The ‘U’s are again in claret shirts with white shorts and socks. Sevenoaks meanwhile are wearing their home kit of blue/black striped shirts with black shorts and socks. For the third game running United begin with the same starting eleven.

Playing on a 3G pitch requires accuracy, anything overhit runs out, under hit and the ball quickly rolls to a halt. The persistent drizzle and strong wind only adds more flavour to the tricky conditions. Regardless, once the hosts get us underway, both teams are impressive, pinging the ball around with confidence and control.

Ben Pope drags an early shot wide otherwise it is Sevenoaks trying to apply pressure in the opening ten minutes. Which comes to nothing as United fashion the first opening. Sam Adams frees Elliott down the right and his cross is headed goalward by Pope and turned in by Kenny Pogue. Except the referee has blown for Pope’s challenge with the goalkeeper and the ‘goal’ is chalked off.

United are showing themselves patient, seeking out any gaps and retaining possession if none are found. Sevenoaks meanwhile are playing far more direct and with pace when they have the opportunity. It’s a contrast in approach with both teams cancelling each other out.

On the half-hour the ‘U’s force the first save of the game. Gary Elphick down the line to Pope results in a throw which is hurled in by Ollie Black where Elphick jumps highest, heads backwards and the goalkeeper has to be alert to tip over the bar.

The visitors then win and keep the ball for a few minutes before Tom Chalmers attempts one of this trademark dribbles but eventually sees his cross blocked. Sevenoaks break and are quickly from one end of the pitch to the other where centre-forward Jason Thompson is well-placed but shoots wide.

As we head toward half-time the home team go close again. The ball breaks to Ryan Fowler some 25 yards out and his shot flies a foot wide of the top corner. The closest they’ve come to troubling United’s goalkeeper.

Half time: Sevenoaks Town 0 – 0 Hastings United

United kick-off for the second-half. There are no changes in personnel, no change in the weather and in the opening minutes no change to the shape of the game.

A change though is afoot. Craig Stone plays a ball to Black down the left who passes inside to give Adams the chance to shoot, he sidesteps a defender to create space and fires a shot right to left which zips past the post.

If that should have been a warning for Sevenoaks, they do not take note. Two minutes later and Stone again strides out of defence this time releasing Pogue on the left. He passes into Worrall’s feet in centre midfield, and though he has close attention is strong in the challenge and turns goalward, away from his marker. There’s only one thing on his mind and Worrall, who loves a spectacular goal against Sevenoaks, thunders an unstoppable 25-yarder into the top corner to give United the lead.

Suddenly the game is end to end. Pope heads fractionally wide after a spot of head tennis then the Oaks break down the left which results in a shot Rogers parries clear before Adams throws himself to block another shot from the edge of the area. United come back again with Stone chipping a lovely ball down the left over defenders for Adams to chase, his cross is deep and there is Stone, who has continued his run, to fire in a shot which is deflected wide for a corner.

Midway through the second-half United almost plunder a second goal. Worrall’s corner is palmed clear by the goalkeeper where Elliott hits a shot on the turn from eight yards only for the ‘keeper to turn the ball over for a corner.

A few minutes later and Sevenoaks go close to hauling themselves level. The chance starts with a United corner which is cleared to Tyrell Richardson-Brown. He motors away and frees Zacarhy Guerfi who takes one touch and strikes a powerful shot from 18 yards. Somehow Rogers flings himself to his right and, with a fingertip, deflects the ball over for a corner via the top of the crossbar. Guerfi put his head in his hands and little wonder because he hit it superbly and Rogers showed us what he does best with an equally superb save.

With the clock ticking down the rain finally eased and then stopped. Adams shot wide twice in quick succession then the ‘U’s kept the Oaks at bay through the final minutes and added time to record an impressive away win.

Full time: Sevenoaks Town 0 – 1 Hastings United

Once again, a Ryan Worrall goal against Sevenoaks was worthy of winning any game. Definitely an early contender for United’s goal of the season award. The crux though is this United team is a perfect blend of experience and youth, pace and guile. Like United, Sevenoaks had begun the season unbeaten in the league and they do not often lose at home. We shouldn’t forget Roger’s save nor another clean-sheet. All in all an excellent win against a solid Sevenoaks side, and three points which move the ‘U’s to the summit.

Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall, Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Pope (65’ Rodari), Adams (90’ Dixon), Chalmers, Pogue, Ward (Unused subs: Goldsmith, Scott, Capon)

Sevenoaks Town: Bridle-Card, McFarlane (87’ Ripley), Taylor, Parkinson (56’ Guerfi), Tennett, Gunner, Bessey-Saldanha, Fowler, Thompson, De Silva, Richardson-Brown (76’ Sawyer) (Unused subs: Wright, Fiddes)