United finish wrong side of fractious encounter

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Corinthian vs Hastings United – Isthmian League

After the joy of a comprehensive win on Tuesday night, United were brought crashing down to earth in losing a game which will be remembered more for its irritable nature than any of the football played. Typified by United’s Ben Pope and Corinthian’s James Billings running battle. The home side wasted a golden chance in the opening minutes in blazing a penalty over the top and were made to pay when Ryan Worrall’s shot from distance squirmed past the goalkeeper on the stroke of half-time. The second-half continued in the same stop-start manner with neither side creating a chance of note. An equaliser for Corinthian arrived with 25 minutes remaining via a simple long ball collected and dispatched by substitute Beckha-Kah Dembele. United went in search of a winner but instead were caught on the break and a low cross travelled across the area and was side-footed home by Frankie Morgan to give The Hoops the three points.

Saturday 6th November, a 3pm kick-off on a dry day with light cloud and the occasional gust of wind. The ground, known as ‘The Farm’, is situated on a working dairy farm. It has an adjacent golf course and is fully open to the elements. There is a small electronic scoreboard in the corner, reclaimed bus shelters provide cover for standing spectators and the seats in the main stand sit atop a disguised lorry bed. It is a curious mish-mash surrounding a decent looking pitch cut with an elaborate chequerboard pattern. United are in their changed kit, head to toe in sky-blue, but unchanged in personnel from Tuesday night. Corinthian’s strip is green and white hooped shirts with white shorts and socks. The Hastings Town incarnation of the club visited Corinthian in an FA Cup first qualifying round tie back in 1994, with Hastings winning 2 – 1.

The current Hastings United do the honours and knock the ball around for ninety seconds until a pass is intercepted on the edge of the United area. Worrall blocks a shot, Louis Rogers saves the follow-up and as Craig Stone attempts a clearance, he clips a player and concedes a penalty. There are no complaints. Without completing a single pass of their own Corinthian have the opportunity to open the scoring, which they waste with a wild spot-kick over the bar.

The ‘U’s respond through Lanre Azeez twice being involved. First, he sets up Hasler whose shot from 20 yards flies into the trees behind the goal, before Jack Dixon has a shot blocked and then Hasler repeats his trick of firing over.

The opening 15 minutes has been hectic with United getting the ball down and passing while Corinthian have been starved of the ball and are looking to launch long balls forward at every opportunity. Which almost pays off for them. A long punt from the goalkeeper is flicked on though the resulting shot is well over the bar. Route one by the home side.

The referee’s loose interpretation of the laws then makes a showing. A Corinthian back pass to the goalkeeper is controlled with his feet and then under pressure from Pope he picks the ball up. The referee is uninterested by United’s appeals from both players and supporters. Pope is then yellow-carded for an innocuous collision with centre-half Billings which is the start of repeated attempts to have Pope sent off.

At the next United corner there’s more shenanigans, pushing and shoving before the pair challenge for the ball again which leaves Billings seemingly injured beyond repair before running out of defence without treatment and none the worse. Minutes later as Pope chases a back pass he’s blatantly shoved over, both off the ball and in the penalty area, yet neither the referee nor his assistant react.

United keep pressing, a Hasler cross from the right is dropped by the goalkeeper at Pope’s feet but his goal bound shot is blocked on the line. As the half has progressed Corinthian have gradually adjusted their way of playing and they put together a move down the left which almost results in the opening goal. A low cross into the area bypasses the last United defender but is side-footed wide from a few yards out. It is the best chance of the game, which is saying a lot seeing as the home side have had a penalty.

As half-time approaches Stone gets his head to an Ollie Black throw which beats the goalkeeper but is once again cleared off the line. Just as it seems the half will remain goalless calamity strikes for the home side. Hasler frees Tom Chalmers down the left and although he is tackled the ball is picked up by Worrall in the middle of the Corinthian half and he hits a pot-shot from 30 yards. This is not a trademark Worrall humdinger though he strikes it well enough and on target but it’s straight at the goalkeeper who should throw his cap on it. Instead the ball bounces a few feet in front him, skids on, hits his gloves and drops over the line. A Clanger with a capital ‘Cee’.

A hectic, fractious opening 45 minutes comes to end with United fortunate to be leading. Not a game which is pretty to watch and no doubt not an enjoyable game to play in either.

Half-time: Corinthian 0 – 1 Hastings United

The home side restart the game with the floodlights on and the continuation of the Billings vs Pope wrestling bout. When Worrall lofts a ball over the top Pope looks to be away but is callously hacked from behind earning Billings a yellow which could easily have been an early bath.

Black is then shoved over by his opposite number when shepherding the ball out of play. The players touch foreheads and not in the manner of an Inuit friendly greeting. Somehow the outcome is a Corinthian corner.

The game continues to be disrupted. The Hoops complain about each challenge, question every decision and they’re not allowing any rhythm to be established by either side. That seems to be their game plan and the issue for the ‘U’s is the antics suit Corinthian as it prevents United from building up a head of steam. Their frustration is deepened by a Corinthian equaliser with 25 minutes remaining. A diagonal punt frees Dembele on the left and he strikes an early low shot across Rogers and into the bottom corner.

United up the urgency seeking to get their noses back in front. Dixon breaks through midfield and gives Hasler the chance to cross from which Chalmers hammers in a shot from eight yards. The goalkeeper’s reaction save is excellent and some redemption for his earlier error. From the corner a United shot is blocked, there are claims for handball ignored by the referee then Hasler’s shot is deflected wide.

As the ‘U’s push up they are caught on the break. Emmanuel Oloyede makes good headway down the right and his low cross bisects United’s goalkeeper and defence to arrive at the feet of Morgan at the far post. It’s a replica of their first-half chance but this time there is no reprieve as Morgan side-foots home. The game has been turned on its head.

With time running out United move from seeking a winner to needing an equaliser. A cross looks destined for Chalmers’ head but the defender prevents him from jumping though nothing untoward is seen by the official. When the clock moves into the seventh minute of added time the final act epitomises the overall game. Hasler is pushed in the back by Oloyede who gathers the ball and there’s no intervention from the referee, so the striker blasts a shot goalward which hits the upright and bounces clear as the whistle for the end of the game sounds.

A scrappy game won by the team who wanted exactly the sort of match this turned into. Disappointment and frustration for United who cannot consistently recreate the earlier form which gave them an eight game winning streak.

Full-time: Corinthian 2 – 1 Hastings United

Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall, Stone, Chalmers, Dixon, Pope (Hull 57’), Adams [c], Hasler, Goldsmith, Azeez

Corinthian: Prall, Lashley, Morgan (Holland 85’), Bath, Billings, Sawyer, James, Mahoney, Tanner (Dembele 63’), Housego (Davey 75’), Oloyede

United goal: Worrall (45’)
Corinthian goals: Dembele (66’), Morgan (82’)

Attendance: 127

Bob Quinn
Twitter: @BobJQuinn