Hastings United Football Club must embrace the challenge presented by its current availability crisis, according to manager Chris Agutter.
Having been extremely stretched by injuries and suspensions during last weekend’s 1-1 draw away to Whitstable Town, Hastings are likely to be equally depleted for the home game against Faversham Town today (Saturday). Kick-off at The Pilot Field is 3pm.
Agutter said: “We’re banged up with injuries. There were nearly 15 players in the treatment room on Monday night.
* Hastings United draw game which ends 10-a-side
“All the injuries are impact, and just general wear and tear really. I’ve never known so many impact injuries as we’ve got, but we’ve got to embrace it and see it as a challenge.”
Lane Azeez, Sam Beale and Hassan Ibrahiym are set to remain sidelined, while Youssouf Bamba pulled his hamstring against Whitstable.
Sam Adams and Sam Cruttwell played the full 90 minutes last weekend despite only being 50 percent fit. Cruttwell, in fact, wasn’t even in the matchday squad and therefore turned up for the coach without his boots, but the extent of the predicament meant he ended up playing.
Ollie Black is available again after suspension tomorrow, but is struggling with a knee problem picked up against Horsham 10 days ago. Temi Eweka is suspended for today’s game following his red card at Whitstable and Jack Dixon still has two more games on his ban.
One piece of good news is that forward Davide Rodari, who has been sidelined all season by a serious knee injury, will be in the squad if given the all-clear by the surgeon on Thursday.
“As much as we would like to get back to winning ways, it will be tough,” continued Agutter. “Faversham are on an upward curve and we’re banged up with injuries. But it’s an opportunity for this young group to test themselves.”
Hastings are third in the table - one point behind second-placed Ashford United and two ahead of fourth-placed Horsham having played a game more than both.
They are six better off than Whyteleafe, who are one place outside the play-offs in sixth, and 21 above today’s opponents Faversham.
Hastings’ last three games have all ended in 1-1 draws having gone ahead in all of them. They are winless in four matches, but have lost only one of their last 10.
“We’ve very positive because we’re playing well,” added Agutter. “It’s a difficult time in the season - January and February are notoriously difficult - and we just need to keep plugging away.
“I feel like the points we’re getting at the minute we could look back on and say they were important points.
“We’ve been unbeaten for three games and although they’re three draws, we’ve come out of three difficult situations without a loss. And we’ve only had one loss in the last two months.
“To be honest all that’s been lacking in all three games is the second goal. In all three we’ve gone 1-0 up and had chances to go 2-0 up, but we’ve not taken them.”
Agutter reserved special praise for young defender Jamie Fielding, who he said was ‘man of the match by a mile’ against Whitstable.
“He produced one of the best full-back performances I’ve seen for a long time,” Agutter said. “He’s come in and taken his opportunity. His last few performances have been excellent.”
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 25-64 (+38 goal difference), 2 Ashford United 24-48 (+29), 3 HASTINGS UNITED 25-47 (+22), 4 Horsham 24-45 (+16), 5 Haywards Heath Town 24-42 (+11), 6 Whyteleafe 24-41 (+17), 7 Hythe Town 25-39 (+9), 8 VCD Athletic 23-35 (0), 9 Ramsgate 25-33 (+5), 10 Phoenix Sports 24-32 (-3).