United made it four league wins in a row, all without conceding a goal, and moved up to third place in the table, and just a point off the lead, after a hard fought but well deserved victory against fellow promotion hopefuls Ramsgate at the Pilot Field this afternoon.
It wasn’t until the 72nd minute that Ben Pope broke the deadlock with a superb long range strike, with second half substitute Lloyd Dawes making the points safe in the fourth minute of added time, although the Rams had posed little threat in the intervening period and scarcely raised the anxiety levels of another fantastic home crowd.
Although commanding at the back and no less imposing in midfield, the visitors appeared strangely lacklustre when venturing forward throughout the contest, the mercurial Joshua Ajayi looking good on the ball down the left flank, and Callum Peck equally capable on the right, but the U’s managed to restrict their opponents to just a couple of clearcut chances, Craig Stone producing a vital goalline clearance to deny Peck early in the second half, before Louis Rogers comfortably saved an angled effort from the same player.
United could have opened the scoring in the very first minute, Sam Adams delivering an inviting cross that Tom Chalmers headed against the outside of a post with keeper Jacob Russell well beaten. But it took nearly half an hour for the hosts to really start gaining the upper hand, Russell pushing away an Adams shot, before Finn O’Mara somehow failed to connect with Jack Dixon’s glancing header from inside the six yard box, and Dave Martin dragged a shot wide when clear in the area.
Having survived those two nervy moments shortly after the restart, the U’s began to dominate, with Dawes soon having an influence when his glancing header from a trademark Ollie Black long throw just cleared the crossbar.
Dawes’ next significant contribution provided the assist for Pope to give United the lead, although it was nothing more than a simple lay-off from a Ryan Worrall pass, which Pope juggled briefly before unleashing a low swerving volley from a good twenty-five yards, which initially looked to be drifting inches wide, only to bend just in time to find the very corner of the net, and give the tireless striker his fourteenth goal of a typically productive campaign.
Pope glanced a header wide from an Adams corner, as the U’s sought to double their lead, while Dawes saw a long range free kick awkwardly pushed away by Russell, but the home side were not to be denied for too much longer.
Kenny Pogue delivered a peach of a pass from the right touchline, which landed perfectly between a retreating defender and the onrushing keeper, for Dawes to beat both to the ball, knock it past them into space and roll it gleefully into the empty net.
Wild celebrations ensued, the importance of the goal in clinching victory over a side that started the match ahead of United in the table not lost on the majority of a four figure attendance. Gary Elphick has led his side firmly back into promotion contention after the U’s endured an indifferent run of results in the final few weeks of Chris Agutter’s managerial reign, and Christmas is now sure to feel a lot happier for everyone involved with the Club than might have seemed likely a month ago.
Hastings United – Louis Rogers, Ollie Black, Ryan Worrall, Finn O’Mara, Craig Stone, Tom Chalmers, Jack Dixon, Ben Pope (Kenny Pogue 90+2), Sam Adams, Knory Scott (Kane Penn 76), Dave Martin (Lloyd Dawes 53). Subs not used – Sam Hasler, Andrew Sesay.
Goals – Ben Pope 72, Lloyd Dawes 90+4. Yellow cards – none. Red cards – None.
Ramsgate – Jacob Russell, Jake McIntyre, Denzelle Olopade, Callum Peck, Oliver Bate (Bradley Ryan 77), Ashley Miller, Ben Fitchett, Joshua Ajayi, Jamie Coyle, Tijan Jadama, Jerald Aboagye (Callum Emptage 85). Subs not used – Beckham Kennelly, Nico Cotton, Harry Maher.
Goals – None. Yellow cards – Jerald Aboagye 43, Callum Emptage 89. Red cards – none.
Attendance – 1,073.
Match reporter wishes to remain anonymous but we thank them kindly for their match report.