Hastings United Football Club made a dream start to the new season this afternoon (Saturday).
Jack Harris scored a hat-trick on his debut for the club as United thrashed Chipstead 6-0 at The Pilot Field in Ryman Football League Division One South.
Sam Cole, Zac Attwood and Bright Temba also got on the scoresheet against a Chipstead side which played the final quarter of the match with just nine men due to injuries.
United’s starting line-up contained just three players - Josh Pelling, Sean Ray and Sam Adams - who were with the club at the end of last season and new boss Garry Wilson gave the captain’s armband to one of his new recruits, Jack Walder.
After a quiet opening on a glorious afternoon, United started to get on top around the 15-minute mark. Max Hollobone and Cole fired over before Ray’s firm header from a Hollobone corner was nodded off the line by Robert Webb.
In their first opening day home fixture for four years, United came agonisingly close again moments later when Adams struck the post with a terrific left-foot shot from just outside the box.
Chipstead did have a couple of moments of their own, notably when Kerry Kedze’s far post volley was saved by the feet of Pelling, who later held Tyrone Pink’s volley low down. Sol Otobo also shot wide from an inviting position.
But on the whole United looked the better side. The impressive Attwood blazed over and Cole almost squeezed the ball home at the near post before the breakthrough finally arrived in the 43rd minute.
An Adams cross from the right dropped kindly for Cole to bury a right-foot shot high into the net on his United debut. It meant United led a home league game at half time - something they failed to do in the whole of last season.
They could even have been further ahead because in the short time that remained before the break, Attwood came close to a second, while strike partner Harris saw a shot deflect wide and a header sail over the top from the resulting corner.
In the second half, Cole sent a glancing effort just over and Adams wasn’t far away with a curler before Attwood marked his return to the club with the second goal in the 52nd minute. The striker controlled a long ball forward and turned before driving into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
Things went from bad to worse for Chipstead thereafter. Their former United goalkeeper Ryan Burbridge injured himself in saving a Cole header and had to leave the field, so midfielder Ben Chick took over the gloves.
Harris opened his account in the 67th minute. A free kick from deep was missed by a Chipstead defender and Harris rounded the goalkeeper before rolling the ball home.
With Chipstead now two men down because of injuries, Temba made it 4-0 within seconds of coming on as a 77th minute substitute. The young striker got to a long ball forward just before the last defender and slotted past Chick.
The visiting penalty area resembled a shooting gallery towards the end as it became a question of how many United would score. Attwood, Cole and Harris all had attempts at goal, one attack ending with an Attwood shot being blocked on the line and Cole’s follow-up very well saved.
Harris eventually made it five in the second minute of added time by rounding-off a flowing move with a sweeping finish. He still found time to complete his hat-trick, driving into the box through a by now almost non-existent defence and scoring with his left foot.
United: Pelling, Crabb (Jibodu 79), Hall, Smith, Ray, Walder, Adams (Temba 77), Hollobone (Foster 74), Attwood, Harris, Cole. Subs not used: Cruttwell, Cooper. Attendance: 365.
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