United battle to 3 points on return to league action

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Hythe Town vs Hastings United – Isthmian League

After four weeks and five cup matches, United finally returned to league action and came away from Hythe with all three points after a battling performance. Do not be fooled by the 3 – 0 scoreline, this was not an altogether comfortable victory but required all of the ‘U’s resilience to keep the home side at bay, especially in the opening 45 minutes. It was Hythe who looked most likely to open the scoring only for United to be awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time which Sam Hasler dispatched with aplomb. The goal deflated Hythe and spurred United on with the visitors having the better of the second-half, rewarded with goals from Sam Adams and Kenny Pogue in the final 15 minutes.

Tuesday 19th October, a 7:45m kick-off on a warm, dry evening. The moon on the final day of its waxing gibbous phase hangs above the stadium. You’ll see a full moon on Wednesday evening. United continue in their away strip of sky-blue shirts, whites shorts and blue socks. The Cannons meanwhile are all in red except for an avant-garde orange flash across the shoulders. The ‘U’s are without Ben Pope (still suspended), Gary Elphick, Lloyd Dawes and Tom Chalmers. Lanre Azeez starts with Ryan Worrall in the back-four alongside Craig Stone.

The opening 10 minutes has both teams settling into the game. Hythe spend some time on the ball while United’s first meaningful foray forward ends with Stone’s shot being blocked. Ollie Black then retrieves a clearance from his own long throw and teases a deep cross which the goalkeeper fingertips away at the far post.

Hythe go straight down the other end and create two chances of their own. First, they move the ball from right to left and swing in a cross which is headed just wide from 12 yards. Kane Phillip then breaks down the right, cuts inside and tees up Darren Oldaker who shoots well over. Signs though of Hythe getting the ball down and beginning to threaten the United goal.

On the half-hour Hythe go close again. Tom Walmsley gets free down the left and manoeuvres himself into a shooting position but fires wide of the far post. Alex Brown then has Hythe’s first shot on target, a 25-yarder straight at United’s Louis Rogers who saves easily. The home side have certainly built up a head of steam, encouraged by possession and the ‘U’s passes going uncharacteristically astray. Phillip creates another chance after galloping down the right, but his cross is again headed wide.

As we head to half-time it feels more and more like the first goal is going to dictate the outcome of this game. With that in mind it is United who finally create a period of sustained pressure. Following a Hythe freekick the ‘U’s break at pace through Azeez which results in a United freekick and then a corner. The cross is cleared again but United have Hythe penned in and when the next cross enters the box the ball hits a Hythe hand and the referee points to the spot.

The Hythe players, the referee and his assistant then spend a few minutes swapping names and addresses, presumably in preparation for exchanging Christmas cards later in the year. Either way, Hasler has to wait before burying the penalty in the bottom corner with the goalkeeper diving in the opposite direction. Against the run of play perhaps but United have their noses in front and something to hold on to.

Half-time: Hythe Town 0 – 1 Hastings United

It is amazing what a goal can do for the mind and body. United, having looked a tad weary after their exertions at the weekend, now have a spring in their step as they get the second-half underway. They look sharper in midfield with Adams, Jack Dixon and Hasler all getting stuck into tackles.

10 minutes in and Azeez drifts past a couple of defenders along the edge of the area and sets up Dave Martin for a strike on goal which produces a fine save from the goalkeeper. Martin and Dixon then work the ball to Adams who shoots wide from 30 yards. United are firmly on top at the start of the half and looking for a second goal which almost arrives after Azeez wins a dubious corner. The ball clearly ricochets off his body and goes out of play for a goal kick, but the referee sees it differently. Dixon has a shot saved from the resulting cross and some Hythe players may well have self-combusted if United had scored then.

The ‘U’s keep coming though and Marcus Goldsmith does brilliantly to weave his way past two defenders on the right touchline and free Azeez whose cross is met by the head of Pogue but over the bar.

With 15 minutes remaining Hythe have two chances to get themselves back on level terms. They break down the left and hit a deep cross which is met by an arriving player who shoots but a superb flying block by Worrall deflects the ball for a corner. When the cross comes over it is met by the head of a Hythe player at the far post, but again the header is wide.

For all of their good play the home side have yet to really test the United goalkeeper and they are made to pay the price for their profligacy. Hythe make a hash of running the ball across the halfway line allowing Pogue and Adams to nip in and win the ball. Pogue makes a run which distracts the defenders and Adams has one thing on his mind, he lines up a shot and passes into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

The celebrations of the travelling supporters have barely ended when they’re on their feet again. From the restart United win the ball back and a delicious pass over the top from Hasler finds Pogue who gets himself the wrong side of the defender, the ball bounces perfectly in front on him and gets what it deserves, a brilliantly executed loft over the goalkeeper. Pogue scores for the fourth consecutive game.

There are five minutes of added time in which Stone has a header saved, a shot saved, and another header deflected wide for a corner. A fourth goal would have been the icing on the cake, but nobody minds, tonight’s victory is sweet enough.

Full-time: Hythe Town 0 – 3 Hastings United

Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall, Stone, Dixon (Bates 88’), Adams [c], Hasler, Goldsmith, Pogue, Azeez (Legg 87’), Martin (Hull 82’)

Hythe Town: Godmon, Webster, Gordon, Rogers, Wynter (Trespaderne 86’), Doe, Phillip, Oldaker, Leighton (Collin 75’), Brown, Walmsley (Sarfo 67’)

United goals: Hasler (45’), Adams (78’), Pogue (79’)

Attendance: 225

Bob Quinn
Twitter: @BobJQuinn