Record crowds fill Pilot Field as United storm to the top

Hastings United head their Isthmian League division by four points after a 4-0 victory over Faversham Town last Saturday, their seventh in eight league games. Even more remarkable than this run of form has been the size of the home crowds at Pilot Field: 1,073 for a 2-0 win against Ramsgate on 18 December; 2,017 for a 1-0 success against Lancing on New Year’s Day; and an amazing 901 who braved atrocious weather to watch Saturday’s triumph.

The New Year’s Day figure was the club’s biggest ever recorded home league gate (discounting statistics from the previous incarnation of the United club which was disbanded in 1985) – only five fewer spectators than watched Crawley Town play on the same day in League Division 2, four tiers higher. 

Goalmouth action at Pilot Field: Hastings on top
CREDIT: Scott White

And United’s football over the last six weeks has been largely worthy of this following. Since defeat by Haywards Heath Town on 27 November they have scored 19 league goals and conceded just two, both in a 2-2 draw away to VCD Athletic on 3 January.

Goalkeeper Louis Rogers has kept goal with admirable consistency, and won the league’s Golden Gloves award for the month of December for his run of clean sheets. Any concern that Gary Elphick’s elevation from player to manager in early November would leave a weakness in central defence has proved quite false. Replacement loanee from Folkestone Invicta Finn O’Mara has come in to form a strong partnership with Craig Stone; and O’Mara has also scored some priceless goals, including the winner in a 1-0 win at Whitehawk on 27 December and an overhead kick against Faversham on Saturday, when leading scorer Ben Pope also notched a couple.

The ‘U’s travel to Whitstable tomorrow, then entertain Burgess Hill Town at Pilot Field on 22 January, before they play local rivals  Ashford United, who are currently second in the table, a week later. That game will be a classic six-pointer, with United’s keen and vociferous away support likely to make the short journey into Kent in full cry. 

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