Hastings United vs Whitehawk – Isthmian League
A whopping 1,214 people attended the Pilot Field on a wet August bank holiday Monday to watch a typically feisty encounter between United and Sussex rivals Whitehawk. The ‘U’s coming out on top courtesy of second-half goals from Sam Hasler and Ben Pope to firmly put Saturday’s Ramsgate defeat behind them. A 51 minute first-half littered with stoppages for injuries did not detract from an enthralling game despite the nil – nil scoreline. Hasler’s free-kick opened the scoring on 62 minutes with Pope putting the icing on the cake in the last minute of added time.
Monday 30th August, a 3pm kick-off with characteristic bank holiday weather of leaden skies, drizzle, a fresh breeze, and the wondering why it isn’t warm enough to be wearing only a T-shirt? United are in their home strip of claret shirts with white shorts and socks. The Hawks are predominantly in royal blue, though their goalkeeper, Nathan Stroomberg, is rocking a fluorescent pink outfit. Lloyd Dawes follows up Saturday’s competitive debut with his first start for United.
Whitehawk do the honours and immediately win a corner from which there is an early shot easily saved by Louis Rogers. A Whitehawk full-back then tries to pinch a few yards and falls foul of a throw-in rule most people thought no longer existed i.e. throw the ball from the point where it left the field of play, if not it is retaken by the opposing team. We don’t see this often enough.
Hasler takes the first free-kick of the game, whipping in a low cross which no-one can catch up with. Then he wins a tackle in midfield and releases Dawes to spread the play wide to Dave Martin. His cross is tad too high for Pope who heads over. Dawes then controls a long pass from Craig Stone, the ball dropping out of the sky is cushioned brilliantly, he drives through two tackles before shooting wide of the near post. Dawes again, he’s tight on the touchline but cleverly swivels away from a defender, cuts inside and sets up Hasler for a shot which flies over the bar.
This positive start from the home side is almost undone. Stone mishits a pass and Whitehawk fire in a shot from the edge of the area which whizzes narrowly wide.
Then a tussle in midfield leaves Whitehawk’s Tegan Freeman down on the floor, the referee waves play on and United win a corner. Freeman though requires treatment for head injury and there’s a delay while he’s bandaged up. Minutes after the restart there’s another Hawk injury. United take the time for an impromptu team talk. These delays can be disruptive but the ‘U’s are in the mood today. Jack Dixon starts a terrific move involving Martin, Pope and Stone before Martin hits a deep cross which is nicked off the head of Hasler at the far post. Somehow the referee awards a goal-kick.
United’s Nathan Jenkins had a tough introduction against Ramsgate but is looking much better today. The back four are occasionally switching to a back three allowing Jenkins to step out and be the extra man in midfield. He is playing a valuable link up role, and then defending where necessary.
As the half heads toward added time there’s another delay and this time Freeman cannot continue. United keep pressing without creating a clear-cut opportunity. There are six minutes of added time during which Hasler hits a cross into the heart of the Whitehawk area. Stroomberg comes, collides with his own player and the pair go down. The referee blows for a foul, against which United player is unknown, given none was involved. Finally, a disrupted first-half ends with neither goalkeeper having been seriously troubled.
Half-time: Hastings United 0 – 0 Whitehawk
United have the restart and within 20 seconds another Hawk player is down and requires treatment. This doesn’t deter the ‘U’s who are looking to keep the ball moving quickly. They are pinging the ball around and thundering into tackles. An Ollie Black long throw is flicked on by Dawes grazing the top of the bar. Dixon then wins a challenge in midfield which allows Gary Elphick to gallop forward into the area, but his cross is blocked. Minutes later Hasler clips a lovely pass over the head of the full-back for Martin to latch onto, his cross is a yard in front of Pope yet the pressure from the home side is building.
The breakthrough arrives on 62 minutes. Stone punts a long pass into the corner which Pope gathers, he performs a Cruyff turn and is hauled down by the defender who is booked for his trouble. The free-kick is on the right side of the penalty area level with the six-yard box. It’s better than a corner and Whitehawk decide to set themselves for a cross but Hasler fools everyone. There’s a gap at the near post with no defender and Stroomberg off his line. Hasler drills a shot left-footed hard and low, and Stroomberg cannot readjust quickly enough. United deservedly in front.
A few minutes later Dixon hits the pass of the game from the centre-circle with the outside of his right foot, thrashed out wide for Martin to stride onto from which United win a throw. Black throws long and Stone finds Pope who hits a shot on the turn only for Stroomberg to make a stunning save, blocking the shot for a corner.
There’s another delay for a Whitehawk player. The crowd groans showing their disapproval, suspecting it’s a disruption tactic. It’s like the footballing re-enactment of a war film, let’s call it White Hawk Down.
As the clock ticks down United make a couple of changes. Sam Adams for Dawes, who has had a great game. Kenny Pogue for Hasler, who has equally been top notch. There’s a renewed vigour for the ‘U’s. Tom Chalmers sets up Adams who is inches away from the settling the game, his left-footed 20-yarder bounces back off the post with Stroomberg beaten. Minutes later Pogue flicks a near-post header just past the far post.
There are four minutes of added-time. Dixon is named the sponsors man of the match and epitomises his display with three lung-bursting tackles in the space of ten seconds to win the ball back. He then plays the cutest of delayed passes between two Whitehawk players, its into Adams’ feet and the ball is instantly played onto Pope. United’s striker cuts across the area, makes space and curls a beauty into the bottom corner. Game over.
Full-time: Hastings United 2 – 0 Whitehawk
Man of the match: Jack Dixon. Continues his excellent form displaying a full range of passing, quick and strong in the tackle. Captained the team and led by example.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick, Stone, Chalmers, Dawes (79’), Dixon [c], Pope, Hasler (85’), Jenkins, Martin
Whitehawk: Stroomberg, Emberson, Edwards, Mensah (Clark 89’), Blackmore, El-Abd, Muggeridge, Lawson, Splatt, Freeman (Unwin 38’), Ramsis (Fraser 62’)
United goals: Hasler (62’), Pope (90’)