Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter praised ‘a really good away performance’ after the New Year’s Day win at Ashford United.
A goal in either half from Jack Dixon and Daniel Ajakaiye gave Hastings a well-deserved 2-0 victory over what an Ashford side which had won five and drawn one of its previous six Bostik League South East Division matches.
Agutter said: “I thought we were decent. It was a really good away performance to be honest, especially with the run they’re on. They’re the form team in the league so to bring that to a halt relatively untested...it was a professional performance I would say.
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“We expected them to start quickly and early on they had us under a bit of pressure, but once that first 10 minutes got out the way and we weathered that, I thought it was relatively comfortable actually.”
While goalkeeper Charlie Horlock barely had a save to make as he kept a second successive clean sheet, Hastings had several second half opportunities to have won by a greater margin, notably Youssouf Bamba’s saved penalty at the end.
“I think we could’ve had three or four, obviously we missed a penalty as well,” continued Agutter. “It was a good, solid performance, the players have played well.
“We said to the players at half time this is a thinking game of football. We walked past their dressing room and I thought there was a bull in there; it was crazy, very loud.
“I thought they’re going to come out 100 miles an hour second half. What I didn’t want the players to do is start playing with too much emotion and (instead) keep thinking their way through the game.
“We had the lead, we were in control, what we didn’t want to do was start chasing lost causes or making rash tackles in the heat of the moment. To be fair to the players, they’ve taken it on board.”
Ashford had two players sent-off in the final 10 minutes of normal time, but by then Hastings were firmly in charge of the game.
“They’re both red cards, but what I will say is they did what we didn’t want to do,” added Agutter. “We didn’t want it to be an emotional match. We play a thinking brand of football I think - it’s not crash, bang, wallop - so the players need to be composed and calm, and perhaps Ashford, when they were chasing the game, they lost that. I had a feeling they would as well to be honest.
“Again credit to the players - in the heat of the moment, with a few tackles flying around, we could’ve easily reacted, but we didn’t, we were professional - like we were against Sevenoaks - got the job done and picked up another three points.”
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 18-45 (+22 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 18-37 (+17), 3 Whyteleafe 18-32 (+16), 4 Horsham 18-32 (+11), 5 Haywards Heath Town 18-32 (+10), 6 Ashford United 18-30 (+12), 7 Hythe Town 19-30 (+5), 8 VCD Athletic 17-28 (+6), 9 Three Bridges 18-26 (-2), 10 Phoenix Sports 18-25 (+2).