Jack Dixon scored his first Hastings United hat-trick as the football club matched its biggest league win of the season this afternoon (Saturday).
Jordy Mongoy and Daniel Ajakaiye were also on target as Chris Agutter’s side triumphed 5-0 at home to Sittingbourne in the Bostik League South East Division.
All the goals came during a dominant first half from second-placed Hastings, three of them from Sam Cruttwell corners and one from an Ollie Black long throw.
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Agutter made one enforced change to his starting line-up from the New Year’s Day win away to Ashford United, with captain Sam Adams replacing an unwell Adam Lovatt in midfield.
Sittingbourne arrived at a chilly Pilot Field having lost seven of their previous eight league matches, but set up quite positively and the early indications were that they hadn’t made the trip south just to defend against a back-to-form Hastings side.
Hastings effectively had the match won, though, with three goals in the opening 25 minutes. The opener came in the 14th minute when Cruttwell’s deep corner from the left was headed back across goal by Jack Tucker for Dixon to nod in from close range.
Five minutes later it was 2-0. Mongoy skilfully skipped past his man near the byeline in the left-hand side of the area before slotting through the legs of Sittingbourne goalkeeper Patrick Lee for his first Hastings goal.
Number three came when Cruttwell’s deep corner from the right was hooked back into the danger area by Tucker and Tom Climpson’s header hit Ajakaiye in the midriff before dribbling over the line.
Hastings threatened from a couple more set-pieces, while Ajakaiye and Mongoy both went close in the same attack before Dixon netted twice more near the end of the first half.
The midfielder made it 4-0 in the 44th minute with a back header at the near post from a huge throw by Black on the right.
And Dixon - the match sponsor’s man of the match - completed a hat-trick of headers in the first minute of added time with a powerful effort at the far post from Cruttwell’s left wing corner.
As can often be the case in games which are effectively all over by half time, the second period was a bit of a non-event with no further scoring.
Hastings certainly took their foot off the pedal, but still dominated possession and looked secure defensively. Ajakaiye and substitute Youssouf Bamba showed flashes of quality in the final third, yet Sittingbourne defended much better to prevent further damage.
Bamba went on a dazzling run through the middle only for his initial shot and Antonio Walker’s follow-up to be blocked. Ajakaiye later dispossessed his man near the byeline in the right-hand side of the box before shooting into the side-netting from an improbable angle.
At the other end, Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock had just the one save of note to make all afternoon when he dived to his right to save a deflected free kick by Lewis Chambers.
Hastings have now closed to within five points of leaders Cray Wanderers, who will host form side Three Bridges tomorrow.
Hastings: Horlock; Howlett-Mundle, Climpson, Tucker; Fielding (Azeez 76), Cruttwell (Bamba 64), Dixon, Adams (Walker HT), Black; Ajakaiye, Mongoy. Subs not used: Dullaway, Williams. Attendance: 430.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 18-45 (+22 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 19-40 (+22), 3 Whyteleafe 19-35 (+19), 4 Horsham 19-35 (+13), 5 Ashford United 19-33 (+16), 6 Haywards Heath Town 19-32 (+9), 7 Hythe Town 19-30 (+5), 8 VCD Athletic 18-28 (+2), 9 Three Bridges 18-26 (-2), 10 Phoenix Sports 18-25 (+2).