Following on from wins at AFC Uckfield (4-0) and Walton Casuals (2-1), the ‘U’s made the short journey to Eastbourne United for a local derby on Tuesday evening, 13th July. And with their pre-season fixtures coming thick and fast, United made it three wins in three games against our competitive neighbours. The victory was secured courtesy of first half goals from a Tom Chalmers header and a smart Craig Stone half-volley.
United are decked out in their change strip of sky-blue shirts and socks with white shorts. Eastbourne meanwhile sport a white shirt with wide black vertical stripes leading into chevrons, and an impossible to read red number pasted on the back. A match reporters’ nightmare. But who is complaining? Not me, nor what looks like a hundred plus other spectators. It is a warm, dry and sunny evening with a pleasant breeze and a pitch looking luscious. Plus there is a football match to watch, and that is really all that matters.
Eastbourne kick off and they enjoy some early time on the ball, ended emphatically by a long Louis Rogers clearance which Marcus Goldsmith chases down to win United a corner. Ryan Worrall strikes over a quality cross with plenty of pace and the perfect height for Chalmers to leap high and place a fine header inside the far post from eight yards. Three minutes in and a perfect start for the ‘U’s.
The tone is set. United’s back four is composed in possession and the midfield is ticking over nicely. Worrall especially has found his passing range only to be thwarted (by offside decisions) on three occasions by an overzealous referee’s assistant… and his flag. Worrall and Chalmers then combine to give Knory Scott the chance to shoot low from 25 yards with the Eastbourne ‘keeper making a good diving save
Eastbourne are also neat in their passing and conjure a chance of their own. A break down the right and a through ball into the area offers a shot on goal. Rogers is out sharpish to narrow the angle so the shot past him is off-target and no Eastbourne player has gambled with a run into the box allowing United to clear the danger.
The impressive Harvey Greig, playing with aplomb alongside Craig Stone, has a powerful shot blocked before Scott shoots low from distance again which flashes the wrong side of the post. Another great hit from our Bermudian international.
Throughout the opening period Ollie Black has half-a-dozen long throws into the Eastbourne penalty area, all are repelled. But like an unstoppable force, and at the seventh time of asking, his long throw brings United their second goal. Into the mix it goes and the ball ricochets around like two teams are keeping a volleyball from touching the ground. Eventually the ball is hooked sideways where Stone is waiting, and he casually half-volleys into the far top corner from ten yards. A top notch finish. Midway through the first half and United are two goals to the good.
United continue to forge chances with both Scott and Freddie Legg shooting just over from 20 yards, before Scott again brings out a fine save from the Eastbourne ‘keeper.
Half-time: Eastbourne United 0 – 2 Hastings United
United kick off and within five minutes are close to moving further ahead. Chalmers instigates the chance with a deft turn in his own half, a drop of the shoulder past an opponent, a dash into the Eastbourne half and a slide-rule pass into Ben Pope’s feet which requires a last-ditch tackle to concede a corner. Worrall swings over another tempting cross which drops at the feet of Stone to lash a shot against the post and away.
Fifteen minutes into the second half and another corner almost brings the third goal United are seeking. Worrall again with the cross and once more it is Chalmers who climbs highest to head goalward. Eastbourne though have learnt their lesson and the man situated on the post is there to clear off the line.
Minutes later and that man Worrall plays the ball into Pope’s feet, he turns and gives Scott a short pass into the area, another low shot on target and another save by the Eastbourne ‘keeper, this time with his feet.
With just over an hour gone both teams start to empty their bench to provide some game time for everyone. United’s bench is packed with academy players, and it is notable to see how they all fit into their roles, comfortable on the ball and eager to have an influence on the game.
In the final quarter of the game clear-cut chances are at a premium but there is no drop in energy from either side. Eastbourne are a decent side and have given a good account of themselves, they have pace down the wings but were just lacking a final ball against the quality of United’s defence. For the ‘U’s, well they look fit, sharp and eager to get the season underway.
An entertaining match is brought to a close and both teams receive a healthy round of applause.
Full-time: Eastbourne United 0 – 2 Hastings United
Hastings United: Rogers, Black (’83 Walker), Worrall (’73 Lubanga), Stone (’65 Simmons), Chalmers (’83 Peacock), Pope (’73 Warren), Adams, Goldsmith (’83 Corbin), Greig, Legg, Scott (’83 Hoad)
Goals: ‘3 Chalmers, ’24 Stone