Hastings United vs East Grinstead Town – Isthmian League
Hastings United backed up their midweek win with a thumping 5 – 0 victory over second-bottom East Grinstead Town. After an even start to the game Lloyd Dawes’ volley opened the scoring on 13 minutes, and Ben Pope doubled the lead with a shot hammered home from 20 yards a few minutes before half-time. East Grinstead’s positive start to the second-half was abruptly ended via a thumping header from Finn O’Mara. The sting had been taken out of the ‘The Wasps’ and two late goals from Tom Chalmers and Kenny Pogue saw United go nap. Goals which added gloss to an already polished performance.
Saturday 4th December, it is cold yet dry with plenty of blue sky visible between the clouds. Enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers. United look smarter than Monkman and Seagull in their home strip of claret shirts with white shorts, and socks. East Grinstead, aka ‘The Wasps’, sport gold and black striped shirts, synonymous with their nickname, together with black shorts and socks. United are missing the suspended Jack Dixon but welcome the return of Pope.
United get the game underway though it is East Grinstead who have the possession for the opening few minutes. Until Chalmers heads down the right wing and gives Pogue the chance to send over a low cross which is cleared back to Chalmers in the area, he goes to ground under a challenge but the referee waves away the half-hearted penalty appeal.
On six minutes the stadium joins football clubs around the country with a standing round of applause in a touching tribute to the tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
The visitors create the first chance of note, a flick-on releases Miles Cornwell who shoots wide from the edge of the area. Chalmers and Pogue then manoeuvre their way down the right, two one-two’s around defenders win United corner which bounces around then falls at the feet of Pogue. His shot is blocked by one of the three or four players in front of him, there are shouts for handball, mainly from the supporters behind the goal and quickly waved away.
Momentum is now firmly with United and a long ball down the left gives Dawes something to chase. It’s fifty-fifty between Dawes and the goalkeeper but the latter hesitates, and Dawes gets a shot away which is going wide except Pope retrieves and lays the ball back for Pogue to cross into the six-yard area. Dawes is still lurking, and he swivels onto a volley to thrash home the opening goal. It’s his first competitive goal and he’s clearly delighted, celebrating with the fans behind the goal.
Five minutes later and buoyed by his goal Dawes goes close to a second, striding forward from halfway to hit blistering 25-yarder which flies a fraction wide of the top corner.
Midway through the first-half and while East Grinstead are neat and tidy in midfield there’s no incision as yet and United, already a goal to the good, look comfortable and are playing patiently. Some excellent play in the right-hand corner of the pitch sees Dawes, Pogue and Chalmers bamboozle their opponents before Pogue’s cross just evades Pope and Andrew Sesay.
Moments later the goalkeeper has to parry an O’Mara header which is followed by a Craig Stone shot blocked and a Sesay 25-yard effort flying wide, but not by much. Dawes’ excellent close control then draws a foul and the freekick is hit deep onto Stone’s head, his effort is on target but saved.
With ten minutes to half-time East Grinstead finally find themselves in the United area. Alex Battle does well to escape from O’Mara and keep the ball in play at the byline but when he cuts inside and shoots the head of Stone does its job at the other end of the pitch. Brave defending to maintain United’s lead.
The importance of Stone’s block is quantified just one minute later. A long ball is pinged toward Pope who controls on the edge of the area pulls away from the defender to find a yard of space and hits a venomous 20-yard shot. Perhaps the goalkeeper should do better but its through him before he can react properly, and the back of the net feels the brunt. A good half for the ‘U’s ends with them two goals in front and the crowd in high spirits.
Half-time: Hastings United 2 – 0 East Grinstead Town
East Grinstead restart the game and similar to the first-half they enjoy some early possession but without creating an opportunity to disrupt the United defence. Ryan Worrall then passes long and wide to Sesay who beats his man and sends over a cross so delicious it is too good for everyone.
Even so, the die is cast, and the visitors positive start is about to be undone. A United throw is repelled but the ball is recycled by Sam Adams who feeds Pogue on the right. O’Mara has remained up field and the deep cross has his name written all over it. A thumping header into the roof of the net brings the on-loan defender his first United goal.
The game continues in the direction of the Wasps goal. Chalmers runs 50 yards but sees his shot half-blocked and the goalkeeper claims. Pogue then heads over from an Adams cross before Knory Scott nutmegs a defender and sets up Adams for a shot from the edge of the area which is high and wide.
Although East Grinstead are three goals down, they continue to pass the ball around nicely, none more so than Merrick James-Lewis who has had an excellent game with a display of accurate passing, strength on the ball and he just doesn’t give the ball away. Fair play to him.
As the clock ticks down Chalmers sets off on another barnstorming run and another clever one-two with Pogue which carries him into the area. His first shot is saved but he’s agile enough to caress the rebound goalward and over the line.
There are three minutes to be added on and just enough time for a final goal. A flick-on in midfield frees substitute Kane Penn through the middle and though his shot is saved he gathers the rebound and squares the ball for Pogue to hammer in United’s fifth.
Consecutive three points and clean sheets for the ‘U’s sees them climb to fifth in the table, into the play-off places and right up there in the mix.
Full-time: Hastings United 5 – 0 East Grinstead Town
Man of the match: Craig Stone. Put his body on the line and marshalled the back-four like a general. Prevented everything of note from reaching the gloves of Louis Rogers who didn’t have a save to make.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall, O’Mara, Stone, Chalmers, Dawes (Scott 73’), Pope (Penn 46’), Adams, Pogue, Sesay (Martin 64’)
East Grinstead Town: Coulter, Walsh, Montague, Summerfield, Burrow, Wilson, Cornwell, Sanogo (Hibbert 76’), Burgess (Pingling 60’), Battle, James-Lewis
United goals: Dawes (13’), Pope (41’), O’Mara (56’), Chalmers (89’), Pogue (90’)