Hastings United Football Club will be eager to continue its momentum over the busy festive period.
Chris Agutter’s side will begin a run of four Bostik League Division One South games in 10 days by hosting Ramsgate today (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) before visiting Lewes on Boxing Day.
Hastings manager Agutter said: “Without being boring, I think it’s a case of one game at a time, and just ensuring that we maintain the standards in each and every game.”
Unbeaten in their nine league games since the start of November, Hastings have risen to 12th in the table and are a point outside the top 10.
Agutter said he will rotate his squad as the matches come thick and fast across the Christmas and new year period.
“Over the course of the unbeaten run I think we’ve only kept the same starting XI once,” he continued. “We’ve kept the players quite fresh and the minutes have been spread round quite well.
“There will be changes and rotation, but the same expectation for every starting XI in terms of the minimum requirements.
“I’ll be surprised if we play the same starting XI on Saturday and the Lewes game. They’re two different games as well.
“Ramsgate pose different questions and problems, and therefore different solutions to Lewes. It’s a game at a time and we’ll see what’s required.”
With Hastings’ match at South Park last weekend postponed due to a frozen pitch, Agutter took the opportunity to watch 18th-placed Ramsgate win 2-0 at home to leaders Lewes and says he came away ‘rubbing my hands together’.
“Ramsgate are a good side, one of the best organised teams in the league,” Agutter said. “You can see they’ve got a clear plan and the front three are all decent for this level.
“Lewes are sitting top of the pile, but when we played them at home (in August), even with 10 men we could’ve got back into that game. We’re twice the team now that we were then.
“Local derbies are very intense and it will be very passionate. I’m looking forward to a decent crowd and a great atmosphere. If we take the emotion out of the game and play our way, I think Lewes will be in for a shock.”
Sam Adams is now fully over a neck problem, Tom Vickers and Rhys Whyborne would have been in the squad against South Park, and Sam Cole is very likely to be in the squad against Ramsgate.
Aniere Ebuzoeme, who made his debut as a substitute in the 2-0 Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup third round defeat at home to Crawley Town on Monday night, offers Agutter a further option.
Agutter said: “He’s ex-Millwall and was an England under-16 international. He contacted us and trained a few times, and he’s a very good player. He adds more threat from midfield in terms of goals and more competition as well.”
Of the Crawley game, Agutter said: “It was a good workout and I was pleased with the second half. First half we gave them too much respect, and played with a bit of fear and a bit of anxiety.
“I thought the occasion got to one or two players. For a lot of the young lads it was probably the biggest game they’ve ever played in.
“After a few choice words at half time, we reacted very well and played much better.”
Elsewhere today, Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One leaders Little Common will travel to St Francis Rangers (kick-off 3pm) and Westfield will visit Jarvis Brook in Division Two (kick-off 2pm).