Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter admitted there’s a feeling of what might have been this season.
With four games to go, in-form Hastings are ninth in Bostik League Division One South and 13 points outside the final play-off spot of sixth.
Agutter said: “There’s a feeling of what if, if I’m honest. When I took over (in September) we were down in the doldrums a bit and I think for us to have got where we are is decent, but I don’t really want to settle for that and I think we maybe could’ve snuck in there to be honest.
“I look at Hythe on a great run and they’ve crept in there. We’ve drawn far too many games - South Park away, VCD away, Chipstead at home, off the top of my head, those points would be the difference.
“I think Lewes, Carshalton and Cray are the stand-outs, but even those three, we took four points off Carshalton when we were a poor side. Now with where we are how players have developed, I think we would’ve taken some stopping.
“Unfortunately we’re not going to have that opportunity this year, but it’s all good preparation for next year.”
Hastings have picked up 13 points from their last five matches and with three of their remaining games at home to bottom half clubs, there’s an opportunity to finish very strongly.
“We’ve got to aim to win those four (remaining) games, but it’s every game in its own right,” continued Agutter. “I just think it’s really important we continue to go about our business properly and prepare properly.”
Next up for Hastings today (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) is a home fixture against a Shoreham side 14 points adrift at the foot of the table having won just three league matches all season.
“We know where they are in the league and we’ve seen their results, but they will be treated with the same respect as Phoenix Sports (Hastings’ last opponents at The Pilot Field) were.
“I’ve always spoken about the process rather than the points. I’ve been in many a dressing room where managers talk about winning the game, but they don’t talk about how they’re going to win the game. If we get the process right, we will create chances.”
Ollie Rowe and Sam Beale should return to the squad, but Agutter praised the performances of Bradley Pritchard and, in particular, Jamie Fielding during last weekend’s 3-1 win at Chipstead, describing Fielding as ‘the most athletic player we’ve got’.
Of the game itself, Agutter said: “The wicket wasn’t the best and we got hit by an early goal. We didn’t play well for the first 40 minutes - they tried to disrupt our rhythm, they were very aggressive and looked to press us high.
“Around the 40-minute mark we started to find a bit of control and just before half time got a really important goal. Second half it was really a matter of when rather than if (Hastings would score) and it could’ve been five or six.
“We started to do the ugly things far better after half time. When we got the ball back, we were a bit more sensible in terms of where we put the ball. Our front three were far better than their back three so it made sense to get the ball into them quickly.
“It’s almost like the next step in the team’s development. We’ve nailed down a way of playing, now it’s about can we be flexible enough, within that style, when we need to be? We’ve got to be adaptable.”
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