Sixth Successive Win Puts ‘U’s 10 Points Clear
Chichester City 0,
Hastings Utd 2;
Hastings Utd 3,
Two more victories, two more clean sheets and a hat-trick for Ben Pope at Pilot Field last Saturday keep Hastings United firmly on course for the Isthmian League South-East Division title which has eluded them for the past two seasons. Cray Valley’s surprise home defeat by Three Bridges leaves Ashford United as nearest challengers, ten points adrift with one game in hand. The race is almost run.
Ben Pope: a Pilot Field hat-trick
CREDIT: Scott White
At Chichester on 25 February the ‘U’s were made to work hard for their win, but second half goals from Danny Parish on his debut and from James Hull were enough to secure their fifth successive three-point haul. A week later Ben Pope poached a trio of goals at Pilot Field – two close finishes and a penalty – as the home side cruised comfortably to yet another victory.
The visitors, Corinthian, were indebted to some valiant goalkeeping and a number of shots kicked or headed off the goal line, as the ‘U’s dominated both possession and territory in a first half display that oozed class and confidence. Midfielders Jack Dixon, Sam Adams and Kane Penn kept the ball moving forward quickly, while up front Pope; Parish and Knory Scott combined sweetly on occasion. Scott set up Pope for the first goal, then a swift interchange between Parish and Pope down the left set the striker free to pick his spot for the second.
The second half, with Corinthian favoured by a strengthening wind at their backs, was more evenly contested. But the ‘U’s defence, marshalled almost faultlessly by Craig Stone and Finn O’Marr, was rarely troubled, and Pope’s hat-trick penalty, slotted home after a cross from the right hit a stray hand late on, was just reward for his tireless marauding.
Tomorrow Hastings travel to Cray. The home side came to Pilot Field as league leaders in the reverse fixture in November and managed to squeeze a last-minute 2-1 victory. The league table looks very different now, and there’s been a wholesale shift in confidence in favour of Gary Elphick’s men. Bring it on!
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