Hastings United suffer setback at hands of promotion rivals Haywards Heath
For the fourth time this season Hastings United suffered defeat against one of their promotion challengers, this time going down 2-0 to a well organised Haywards Heath Town.
Despite a high percentage of possession the ‘U’s struggled to create any chances of note and were twice undone by opportunistic breaks by the home side. Ben Pope had an early shot cleared off the line before Heath scored with their first attack through Josh Clack’s excellent finish.
With their noses in front Heath sat back and though Pope and Jack Dixon went close neither effort troubled Billy Collings in the Heath goal and United trailed at half-time. The second half began in the same fashion before the ‘U’s conceded a second after a defensive mix-up left Sam Remfry with an open goal. Sam Adams flashed a shot wide, and Lloyd Dawes headed straight at the goalkeeper but those efforts aside it was a frustrating afternoon as United failed to score in a game for the first time this season.
Saturday 27th November, a cold, damp afternoon with a brutal wind dropping the temperature below zero. The ‘U’s put new signing Andrew Sesay straight into the starting line-up. United are in a strip made up of claret shirts, shorts, and socks. Heath’s kit is white shirts with a blue stripe and blue shorts and socks. There are gloves for some, long sleeves for others and short sleeve shirts for those who somehow don’t feel the cold.
United have the honour of starting the game and they control possession for the opening period which ultimately leads to an early chance on seven minutes. From midway inside the Heath half Bates swings a freekick into the area, the wind plays its part, and Collings fails to gather. Finn O’Mara’s challenge gives Pope a chance 10 yards out and though his shot is on target and beats the goalkeeper the ball is blocked on the line by a defender and the rebound falls back into the grateful hands of Collings.
This early let-off for the home side is compounded minutes later with an opening goal out of nothing. There looks to be little danger when the Blues Jerson Dos Santos finds Clack on the right but the winger cuts inside onto his left foot, finds a yard of space and curls a shot into the top corner giving Louis Rogers no chance. For the third consecutive game a positive United start ends with the opposition taking the lead.
The visitors continue where they left off before conceding. Ryan Worrall’s pass out wide toward Sesay is initially won by the fullback but Sesay wins the ball back and delivers an enticing cross toward Pope who gets a touch but diverts the ball wide of the far post.
As the half ticks by United are still having the bulk of the ball while Heath seem quite happy to sit, defend and spring on the break when the chance arises. The wind is also playing havoc with any pass knocked in the air, however accurate the pass may be the wind is doing whatever it likes.
A case in point. A Heath long goal kick holds up in the wind and Craig Stone and O’Mara both go toward the ball, yet it breaks into the path of Dos Santos who is faced by an onrushing Rogers and can only loft a shot wide.
United come again through Pope and Knory Scott who set up Dixon to send in a 25-yard shot which flies a few feet wide. Despite 55 minutes of the game remaining Collings delays taking the goal kick and is warned for time-wasting.
The final 10 minutes of the first half sees the ‘U’s fire crosses into the area from Worrall, Scott and Sesay. All are repelled by a well marshalled defence and the game reaches half-time with neither side having troubled the goalkeepers further.
Half-time: Haywards Heath Town 1 – 0 Hastings United
Haywards Heath restart the game and it’s a big second half coming up for United. A half which begins with disaster. Heath play an aimless ball forward from right back to a central area which is covered by both Stone and O’Mara, yet the ball bypasses them both and gives Dos Santos a free run into the area. Rogers again rushes out, but this time Dos Santos squares the ball to his left and Remfry has an empty goal to fire into. Seemingly the wind caused the misjudgement, but either way a tough task just got a whole lot harder.
The pattern of the game though remains unchanged. United with the ball, Heath content to defend. A Sesay cross is punched clear by Collings and a Pope cross just evades Sam Adams as the ‘U’s keep plugging away.
A long Ollie Black throw-in then presents Stone with a chance to head goalward and it takes a combination of the crossbar and Collings’ to gloves clear the ball, but only to Tom Chalmers whose shot is blocked and then cleared properly. A few minutes later Worrall’s cross is half-cleared to Adams who hits a difficult half-volley cleanly but wide.
United change personnel with Kenny Pogue and Lloyd Dawes joining Sesay and Pope as attackers. It makes little difference to Heath who keep on defending what’s in front of them and forcing United to cross from an angle which offers the least threat. Adams twice and then Worrall punt crosses into the area but there’s no way through.
Collings is then booked for time-wasting having been warned twice before. Even so, there is no denying Heath have defended well and United are frustrated at being unable to break through their rear-guard. Then when another Adams cross finally finds a United player, Dawes’ header is straight at Collings.
There are four minutes of added time, which seems insufficient given we’ve had six second-half substitutions and repeated delays for goal kicks and throw-ins. Though, it makes little difference today as there’s to be no late recovery or last-minute heroics. The home side deservedly take the three points and United can have no complaints.
On the positive side Sesay showed positive glimpses of what he can offer, especially in the first half, and there was the welcome return of Dawes.
Full-time: Haywards Heath Town 2 – 0 Hastings United
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall, O’Mara (Dawes 70’), Stone, Chalmers, Dixon, Pope, Bates (Adams 46’), Sesay, Scott (Pogue 51’)
Haywards Heath Town: Collings, Morrison, Gilbert, Rowe, Cooper, Christie, Clack, Ndozid (Carvalho 85’), Remfry (Robinson 80’), Dos Santos (Briggs 68’), Cadman
Haywards Heath Town goals: Clack (10’), Remfry (47’)