Hastings United Football Club returned to league action with a solid 2-0 win at home to Horsham tonight (Tuesday).
A goal in either half from Sam Adams and Daniel Ajakaiye kept Hastings second in the Bostik League South East Division with 15 points from a possible 18.
Hastings manager Chris Agutter made four changes to his starting line-up from the weekend FA Cup win over Leiston, with Emmanuel Mensah, Tom Climpson, Jack Dixon and Dayshonne Golding coming in for Jamie Fielding, Sinnkaye Christie, Adam Lovatt and Kelvin Ogboe.
See also: * Hastings return to league action after cup heroics
* Hastings win appeal against Horlock red card
* Eight-man Hastings hold on for amazing FA Cup win
In front of an excellent midweek crowd of 479, the home side enjoyed a lot of possession during the first half as Horsham seemed content to get bodies behind the ball and invite Hastings to try to break them down.
Hastings duly did so in the 17th minute. Ajakaiye did brilliantly to skip past two Horsham defenders in the left-hand side of the area before striking the base of the far post with his shot, but Adams gratefully tapped in the rebound.
After that, Sam Beale’s shot when superbly found by Golding was blocked behind for a corner and Antonio Walker’s goalbound effort was blocked by a covering defender after former Hastings goalkeeper Josh Pelling came sliding out at the feet of Ajakaiye.
Dixon was just off target when the ball dropped to him at a Golding corner. Ajakaiye had a great chance to make it 2-0 shortly before the break, but was denied by a good save from Pelling having been put through by a neat Sam Cruttwell pass.
Horsham’s only real effort of note during the opening 45 minutes was a free kick from Charlie Harris which was safely gathered by home stopper Charlie Horlock.
Less than two minutes into the second half Ajakaiye’s first time shot following a good run and pass inside by Cruttwell was beaten out by Pelling. Cruttwell’s effort after a short corner moments later deflected just wide.
Hastings gave themselves the comfort of a two-goal cushion in the 56th minute. Mensah blocked an attempted Horsham clearance and the ball broke to Ajakaiye, who fired a first time shot high into the net for his 16th goal already this season.
Horsham were by now pressing higher up the pitch and Chris Smith came close to pulling one back with a left-footed shot which went just wide of the far post, but on the whole Hastings were pretty comfortable.
Walker sent a curling shot wide of the far post, Ogboe struck a decent effort just wide seconds after coming on and Dixon drove wide of the near post at the end of a good Hastings move.
At the other end, Horlock made a smart save low to his right in the 90th minute from Tyrell Richardson-Brown’s turn and shot inside the area to ensure he kept his second clean sheet of the season.
Hastings: Horlock, Climpson, Beale, Cruttwell (Lovatt 62), Howlett-Mundle, Mensah (Fielding 90+2), Golding (Ogboe 76), Dixon, Ajakaiye, Adams, Walker. Subs not used: Christie, Ibrahim. Attendance: 479.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 6-18 (+12 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 6-15 (+9), 3 Hythe Town 7-13 (+4), 4 Sittingbourne 7-13 (+2), 5 Whyteleafe 5-12 (+6), 6 Phoenix Sports 6-12 (+2), 7 VCD Athletic 6-12 (0), 8 Ashford United 7-11 (+4), 9 Faversham Town 6-10 (+2), 10 Haywards Heath Town 7-9 (+1).
* HASTINGS United will travel to Hitchin Town in Emirates FA Cup third round qualifying on Saturday October 6 after the Canaries won their second round qualifying replay away to Didcot Town on penalties tonight.