First competitive match of season 2020/21 for the Hastings United men’s team will take place at Pilot Field on Saturday (12th September) when they entertain Herne Bay in a preliminary round of the Emirates FA Cup. The crowd will be limited to 400 – double the number that were allowed to watch the home friendly against Folkestone Invicta on 22nd August but still well short of last year’s average home gate. 

Ticket prices have been raised for adults from £10 to £12; and for seniors and other concessions from £6 to £8. No formal statement has yet been made by the club in respect of forthcoming league match tickets for non-season ticket holders, but it seems likely that these will be priced equally. The club would obviously lose out in gate revenue for as long as current social distancing provisions remain unless some price hike was imposed. Regular supporters seem likely to find the level of increase acceptable. It certainly appears from messages sent out by the club last week that they expect a sell-out on Saturday.

On the field the ‘U’s have enjoyed fair success in pre-season games since the beginning of August, with five wins in nine games against a variety of opposing sides, some above, some below their league status. With only five goals conceded in that run, manager Chris Agutter will surely be confident that they are ready defensively. 

Last season’s defensive unit – Louis Rogers in goal; Gary Elphick and Craig Stone in the centre; Ollie Black and Jake Elliott at full back – have all signed up for the new season and, to the surprise of many, former crowd favourite Sam Cruttwell, who spent last season playing for Little Common in the Southern Combination, has been recruited back into the squad.

Up front, Daniel Ajakaiye has departed (as previously reported) in an upward career move to Havant & Waterlooville, who play two tiers up in the National League. But much is expected from former academy graduate Tom Chalmers.

Herne Bay were lying fifth in the South East Division of the Isthmian League when last season came to a premature end in March, and should provide an interesting first competitive test. Hastings won 13 out of their 15 home league matches in 2019/20, but one of two they didn’t was against the Kent coast side, who drew 0-0 here in January.

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