Hastings United Football Club consolidated second place on the back of its fourth consecutive victory.
Daniel Ajakaiye’s 29th and 30th goals of the season after Bradley Stevenson’s early opener gave Hastings a routine 3-0 win at home to Ramsgate this afternoon (Saturday).
The result kept Chris Agutter’s side second in the Bostik League South East Division. Third-placed Horsham and fourth-placed Ashford United also recorded home wins, while fifth-placed Haywards Heath Town lost away to VCD Athletic.
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Agutter made a couple of changes to his starting line-up from the previous weekend’s 3-1 win away to Three Bridges. Sam Beale returned at left-back and Ajakaiye came back in up-front, with Sam Cruttwell and Davide Rodari dropping to the bench.
On a glorious spring afternoon at The Pilot Field, Hastings opened the scoring in the ninth minute. Stevenson marked the first home appearance of his loan spell from Gillingham by burying a 25-yard shot into the bottom corner.
Hastings on the whole had the upper hand for the remainder of the first half, but Ramsgate certainly had their moments, mainly on the break.
Good defending by Jack Tucker stopped Tijan Jadama turning home a low cross from the Ramsgate left at the near post. At the other end, Jack Dixon’s looping header was spilled by away goalkeeper Luke Watkins, who recovered to block Jamie Fielding’s follow-up.
Nigel Netta’s goalbound shot at the end of a Ramsgate break was blocked by Adam Lovatt before Hastings goalkeeper Louis Rogers produced a smart save at his near post from Jadama’s angled drive. Lanre Azeez headed well wide at the other end from Beale’s cross.
Watkins was shown a yellow card, with many in a healthy home crowd wanting red, for a foul just outside the box on Ajakaiye, whose blistering pace had created something out of nothing.
Watkins then made a good save to his right from the resulting free kick by Sam Adams, who shortly afterwards had a goalbound shot from inside the box superbly blocked by Oliver Gray following another great run down the right from Fielding.
Hastings opened up the two-goal cushion they were after in the 39th minute. A good pass by Dixon released Stevenson through the inside left channel and although his shot was saved, he managed to stab the ball goalwards for Ajakaiye to poke over the line.
The home side was comfortable thereafter and it was almost 3-0 just before half time. Watkins miskicked straight to Adams, who drove forward and went past a Ramsgate defender before firing a low shot just wide.
After the break, a side-foot volley by Azeez following Fielding’s cross was straight at Watkins and seconds later Stevenson flashed a shot from outside the box just wide of the far post. Ajakaiye cut out a Ramsgate back pass and struck an angled effort which squirmed through the fingers of Watkins, who recovered just in time.
Ramsgate enjoyed a good five-minute spell approaching the midway point in the half, during which Netta’s deflected shot following a quick free kick flew just wide, Gray headed wide of the far post from the resulting corner and Beale produced an important clearing header.
Hastings substitute Davide Rodari had a couple of chances to score for the fourth game running, but firstly didn’t get hold of his shot after Sam Cruttwell played a quick free kick to Ajakaiye and then had an effort blocked on the line after Gary Elphick nodded down a corner.
Hastings wrapped things up with a third goal in the 84th minute. Cruttwell, who impressed after coming on at half time, played a lovely ball through for Ajakaiye to roll a neat finish into the bottom corner.
Hastings: Rogers; Fielding, Elphick, Tucker, Beale; Azeez, Lovatt (Cruttwell HT), Dixon, Adams (Rodari 68), Stevenson (Mongoy 58); Ajakaiye. Subs not used: Howlett-Mundle, Horlock. Attendance: 462.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 31-72 (+39 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 32-62 (+28), 3 Horsham 32-62 (+24), 3 Ashford United 31-61 (+35), 5 Haywards Heath Town 31-56 (+16), 6 VCD Athletic 31-50 (+4), 7 Hythe Town 32-47 (+7), 8 Whyteleafe 31-42 (+6), 9 Phoenix Sports 31-40 (-5), 10 Whitstable Town 31-39 (-14).