A hat-trick from new boy Calum Davies gave Hastings United Football Club a deserved victory this afternoon (Saturday).
The 19-year-old forward, playing only his second game for the club, scored once in the first half and twice more during the second period as Hastings won 3-1 away to Ashford United in Bostik Football League Division One South.
Hastings manager Chris Agutter made two changes to his starting XI from the previous Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Cray Wanderers. Ollie Black returned at left-back in the absence of Sam Beale and Adam Lovatt replaced the suspended Jack Dixon in midfield.
Playing one up-front, Ashford seemed content to get bodies behind the ball during the first half and Hastings enjoyed plenty of possession along the back line but found it difficult to play through their opponents.
Hastings were in front at the break, though, thanks to a well-taken goal by Davies in the 40th minute. Hastings midfielder Ansu Janneh dispossessed Kwabena Osei and ran at the home defence before teeing up Davies, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and picked out the far corner with a fine finish.
Apart from that, the sides spurned one clear opportunity apiece in the opening period. Andrew Dalhouse side-footed wide with only Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock to beat while the game was still goalless and, at the other end, Rhys Whyborne headed a well-delivered Dayshonne Golding free kick over the top three minutes after the goal.
There were also a couple of half-chances at either end. Ira Jackson fired just wide after a bit of a scramble in the Hastings box and later sent a free kick just over, while Davies had a couple of other sights of goal for Hastings.
The visitors looked in complete control and dominated possession as the second half got underway. Janneh shot straight at goalkeeper Aaron Lee-Wharton from a Davide Rodari pass at the end of a good Hastings move.
Ashford sent on a second forward to partner Dalhouse just after the hour, but initially at least, it didn’t seem to make much difference.
Hastings captain-for-the-day Sam Cruttwell fired a low shot from the edge of the box just beyond the far past and Golding’s shot was comfortably saved before Hastings doubled their lead in the 69th minute. Davies ran clear through the middle and coolly slotted past Lee-Wharton.
Ashford gradually started to offer a threat as the clock ticked into the final 15 minutes and Jonathan Difford was just off target before the home side pulled one back in the 80th minute.
The powerful Dalhouse, who was recently playing in the Macron East Sussex Football League for Ore Athletic, held off Whyborne and drove the ball across goal for substitute Matt Day to slide home from a yard.
Five minutes later Day got goalside of the Hastings defence from a long ball over the top, but Tom Climpson did just enough to prevent him getting a shot away.
Hastings broke from the resulting corner and Davies curled a delightful shot into the far corner, via the goalkeeper’s fingertips, to complete a memorable treble.
In the time that remained, Hastings substitute Kenny Pogue had a firm drive parried following a Davies pass and Clark Woodcock shot just wide for Ashford from outside the area.
Hastings’ first win in six league games has moved them up three places to 15th in the table.
Hastings: Horlock, Rowe, Black, Lovatt, Whyborne, Climpson, Rodari (Sotoyinbo 76), Golding (Pogue 72), Davies, Janneh (Taggart 87), Cruttwell. Subs not used: Akoto, Scrafton. Attendance: 368.