United boss keen to start climbing table

Hastings United manager Chris Agutter says now is the time for the football club to start climbing the league table.

Saturday, 14th October 2017, 4:45 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 9:49 pm
Jack Dixon on the ball during Hastings United's 1-0 win away to Romford on Sunday. Picture courtesy Scott White

United face back-to-back home games against teams in Bostik Football League Division One South’s bottom six over the coming week, with Faversham Town visiting The Pilot Field today (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) and Horsham on Tuesday night.

Hastings have yet to play a team in the bottom six and six of their 10 league matches so far have been against sides in the top eight.

Agutter said: “We’ve had a tough start in terms of the fixtures. Looking at the run of games we’ve got, I think it’s a good opportunity to climb the table. But if at any point we fall away from the standards we’ve set in the last two games, we won’t do that.”

Sam Cruttwell in the thick of the action during Hastings United's FA Trophy win on Sunday. Picture courtesy Scott White

Hastings are 17th in the table with 11 points from 10 games, while Faversham are 21st with seven from 11 and Horsham 19th with 10 from 10.

Hastings, whose last home fixture on a Saturday was way back on the opening day of the season, have won their last two matches in all competitions without conceding a goal.

“It’s about making small steps really,” continued Agutter. “The first thing was making sure we keep clean sheets at tighten up at one end. Since I’ve taken over that’s been the main focus.

“With the players we’ve got, if we keep clean sheets, we will win games because we will always carry a threat.

“It’s been a case of turning potential draws into wins, which we’ve done. The next step now is to put a sequence of wins together. As I said last week, we need to continue to do the ugly things well and if we do that, we will be able to put together a sequence of results.”

Hastings are currently 16 points behind unbeaten leaders Lewes and 10 adrift of the play-off places heading into a busy run of fixtures, with 11 league games scheduled between now and the end of November.

“In and around Christmas time, the league table will take shape,” said Agutter. “At the minute quite rightly no-one’s talking about us in terms of being in the hunt, but it’s a marathon not a sprint and if we’re within 12-15 points of top spot at Christmas, I would back us to go on a good run.

“That’s the aim. The next few weeks are massive because there’s plenty of games and plenty of points up for grabs. Every game is a winnable game, we just need to make sure we stick to our standards.”

On the player front, Charlie Horlock’s loan from Eastbourne Borough has been extended for a second month and a gentleman’s agreement is in place for it to continue until Christmas.

Agutter said: “We’re very comfortable that Charlie will be with us until Christmas at a minimum. He’s more than filled the void left by (the departure of) Josh Pelling and he’s a great lad as well.”

On the injury front, Tom Vickers is back to fitness and Simon Johnson is expected to be among the substitutes today having trained at close to 100 percent on Tuesday night.

Following their 1-0 preliminary round win away to Romford on Sunday, Hastings will host Ashford Town (Middlesex) in FA Trophy first round qualifying on Saturday October 28. The league game at home to Chipstead has been rearranged for Tuesday November 21.

“I just think we’ve been much better in both boxes,” added Agutter, who felt the performance was very similar to that produced in the dogged, determined 2-0 win at home to Carshalton Athletic the previous Tuesday.