Tuesday 27th July 2021 and a big night for club captain Sam Adams as Hastings United welcome Tottenham Hotspur under-23s to the Pilot Field. A game to celebrate Sam’s testimonial after 16 years and 569 appearances.
The evening is warm, dry, and cloudy. Thankfully the rain earlier in the day has cleared allowing the mass of spectators to line all four sides of the ground. Within the crowd is a good sprinkling of Spurs shirts some displaying players names past and present. From Kane and Son to Gascoigne. A reminder United are about to face a team representing a Premier League club. It’s an animated atmosphere with lots of laughter, chatter, fist bumps and back slaps. To complete the scene, the pitch compares well with the carpet fairways of Augusta.
Both sides form a guard of honour and the man of the moment is applauded onto the field accompanied by match mascots Wilfie Adams and Mason Pogue. Spurs under-23 Manager Wayne Burnett gifts Sam a keepsake, followed by United’s co-owner Daren Burney who presents a memento from the club. Cue another round of boisterous applause and a check of the skies in case there is a red arrows flypast, but there are too many clouds to be able to tell.
With formalities over it’s time for the game. The ‘U’s look grand in claret shirts with white shorts and socks, while the Lilywhites are wearing their traditional bright white shirts with indigo blue shorts and socks. Spurs kick-off toward the Steve Smith stand meaning United are attacking the Cole Warren end.
Spurs retain possession in the opening minutes before United move down the left with a flick-on by Kenny Pogue to Adams which is cleared. The interesting point from the early exchanges being Sam is leading the line in an unfamiliar centre-forward role.
The first chance arrives on six minutes and it’s the visitors who go close to opening the scoring. Rafferty Pedder cleverly frees Jamie Bowden in the penalty area and his cross-come-shot is excellently parried behind by Louis Rogers. The reprieve is short-lived. Spurs surge forward again with Bowden releasing Alfie Devine who times his run to perfection and forces another great save from Rogers. The ball rebounds to the feet of Dilan Markanday a few yards out and faced with an open goal he cannot miss.
The goal reveals two things. Tonight may be Sam Adams’ testimonial but Spurs are not here to make up the numbers, this is going to be a test for United. Also, the sprinkling of Spurs shirts belies the number of their supporters in the crowd who become known by cheering the goal.
Going behind sparks United into life and are immediately within a whisker of an equaliser. Tom Chalmers intercepts a pass in midfield and plays a sublime one-two with Adams. With defenders closing in Chalmers flashes a shot into the side-netting from fifteen-yards. After displaying some early nerves the ‘U’s are rising to the challenge. Chalmers, Sam Hasler and Jack Dixon all snap into tackles as they look to impose themselves.
The visitors though have a firm foothold in the game. They are neat on the ball and sharp in their passing. Also they are quick to close down passing angles which forces an error and that man Bowden intercepts a pass before bringing Rogers into action again with a low shot from the edge of the area.
Meanwhile Sam is ploughing a lone furrow as the Spurs defence move the ball left to right and back again. Adams is as fit as a butcher’s dog and allows the back four no time on the ball. This is one of his attributes, he sets high standards and demands his teammates follow suit.
Midway through the first-half and United create a period of pressure. Chalmers and Hasler exchange passes in midfield then the ball is switched wide to a galloping Marcus Goldsmith on the right. A pass inside the area to Adams provides a crossing opportunity which is defended for a corner. Hasler’s cross results in a mad scramble, then another cross is hacked clear before Chalmers sets up Hasler for a shot which is blocked. The ‘U’s knocking on the door versus Spurs defending in numbers.
But back come the Lilywhites and Bowden again brings out the best in Rogers with a powerful shot before the visitor’s lead is doubled. Spurs break swiftly down the right by way of another through ball and a perfectly timed run to remain onside. Markanday’s cross is into the heart of the area where Brooklyn Lyons-Foster leaps highest to plant home a firm header.
As the first-half comes to end we witness another Sam Adams characteristic. Goldsmith does exceptionally well to win the ball and turn out of danger while pinned near his own corner flag. He completes the job with an ambitious long ball toward Adams, who loses out to the centre-half. To be in with a chance of gaining possession Sam wanted the ball pushed toward the flank and, in no uncertain terms, he points this out.
This is United’s captain. He cajoles, he inspires, he leads by example and he’s someone you would always want alongside you in the heat of battle, but he’s also capable of dishing out a rollicking!
Half-time: Hastings United 0 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur U23s
United kick off the second-half and Ollie Black immediately crunches into a tackle to win a throw-in. He launches a throw into the area and a desperate punch from the goalkeeper stops the ball reaching a United head. Minutes later Chalmers makes another interception in midfield, releasing Pogue in the area whose shot is saved.
This lively start by the ‘U’s almost reduces the deficit. United clear a corner and Adams uses all his guile to bend his run and stay onside to collect a through ball down the right. His cross is half cleared to Hasler on the edge of the area who hammers in a volley which is goal bound but superbly blocked by Lyons-Foster with the goalkeeper beaten.
Despite this passage of play it is Spurs who spring forward and score a decisive third. The break comes from a United corner which is punched clear by the goalkeeper and clipped out to the left winger in his own half. He sprints half the pitch length, down the touchline and into the area before delivering an accurate cut back to Kion Etete who controls with his left foot, swivels and with his right foot hammers into the roof of the net. A really excellent goal giving Rogers no chance.
United fans in the Steve Smith stand continue to bang the drum and the mood within the ground remains buoyant. Then with fifteen minutes remaining another moment of class for the club, allowing Sam’s brother Jamie to enter the fray in place of Goldsmith.
As with most testimonials the recipient makes way with a few minutes remaining. Sam Adams receives a standing ovation and hugs from his manager, coaching staff and teammates on the side lines. It’s a surprise his shin pads are not on display because, in typical fashion, he has worked his socks off.
There is one final piece of action. Hasler wins the ball after another great tackle in midfield and releases Freddie Warren who races into the area and cuts inside. He’s thwarted from pulling the trigger by a good sliding tackle and though there are optimistic cries for a penalty it’s nothing more than a corner, otherwise Sam may have had to come back on.
With that the final whistle sounds and the game is over.
Full-time: Hastings United 0 – 3 Tottenham Hotspur U23s
A great night’s entertainment for the fourteen hundred plus spectators. Spurs brought their ‘A’ game to head home worthy winners and deserved the generous applause of the home crowd.
It was a tough examination for United and a more than useful match in preparation for the forthcoming season. And not once did United betray their playing style, continuing to start from the back and manoeuvre their way up field.
The fun continues as in front of the applauding United fans the team lift up their captain and give him the playground bumps. There really is an undeniable team spirit running through this club and Sam Adams is at the heart of it.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall, Stone, Chalmers (61’ Legg), Dixon, Adams (84’ Warren), Hasler, Goldsmith (73’ J Adams), Pogue (61’ Scott), Huckle (unused subs: Turner, Walker)
Tottenham Hotspur U23s: Lo-Tutala (Oluwayemi 46’), Cesay, Lavinier, Lyons-Foster (Kyezu 61’), Muir (Michael Craig 46’), Okedina (Muir 78’), Markanday (Mundle 46’), Bowden, Robson (Etete 46’), Devine, Pedder (Santiago 46’)
Goals: 7’ Markanday, 34’ Lyons-Foster, 64’ Etete
Man of the match: Louis Rogers, outstanding between the posts.