FOOTBALL: Pilot Blight
Record Crowd Sees Comprehensive Home Defeat
Hastings United 0, Ashford United 3
The biggest crowd for a league game at Pilot Field for many a season, numbered at 1,189, watched last Saturday’s match between the top two teams in the Betvictor Isthmian South-East Division. But most will have come away disappointed as leaders Hastings United, previously unbeaten at home in the league this season, crashed to a 3-0 defeat by second-placed Ashford. The gap between them is now reduced to a single point, with Whitehawk and Cray Valley PM also closing in behind them.
It was the third successive fixture between the two near neighbours in which the Kent side has come out on top, following last April’s play-off semi-final elimination and a 1-0 loss in December. In each of the three matches the ‘U’s have, for reasons which are no doubt still being pondered by players, coaching staff and supporters alike, failed to produce the form that has been sweeping aside other sides – particularly at home, where 11 out of 12 previous league games had been won.
Last Saturday a heavy pitch clearly hindered United’s passing style. Ashford went two goals up in 20 minutes with clinical strikes, then sat back and absorbed home pressure quite comfortably. If they left gaps, the ‘U’s midfield generally failed to find them, leaving forwards Ben Pope and Daniel Ajakaiye little to feed on. Jake Elliot, Jack Dixon and Ajakaiye all went close, but Ashford’s third goal, scored on the break late on, sealed the outcome comprehensively.
One reverse, however untimely, should not be met with undue despondency. Buoyed by previous results and, no doubt, by mounting cash receipts at the turnstiles, the ‘U’s have made two new signings – defender Jerald Aboagye and forward Warren Mfula – to strengthen their first team squad for the battles ahead. That offsets the sad news that young Italian striker Davide Rodari has suffered another major injury to his ACL that will sideline him for the rest of the season.
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