Heath Strengthen Play Off Place
By Stuart Morgan
Heath showed a great team spirit to overcome a talented Hasting side at the Pilot Field to start March with 3 points
It's fair to say Hasting Utd dominated large parts of the match, they are a well established club with great support and at times their football reminded me of how Heath played the previous few season, on the front foot and having to break down the opposition. Heath had lost skipper and centre half Nathan Cooper prior to the match and injuries to Luke Robinson and Kieran Rowe meant the attacking Alex Laing slotted in at full back.
The Heath lads despite the juggle round on the pitch stuck to the task in hand absorbing what they had to and being clinical when they were able to venture forwards against a side that had only lost 1 and drawn 1 at home all season.
It must be said the Heath lads put in a fantastic team performance as they had done time and again this year and the hard work often pays off and pays dividend.
The Match Report has been extracted from Ian Townsend's 'Bostik Match Day Feature' with his permission.
The Full article can be read (highly recommended) by clicking HERE
We arrived at an overcast Pilot Field, but in the half hour before kick off the sun came out. Then Heath came out dressed in yellow, and it could almost have been summer- although only on the pitch, it was anything but warm in the cavernous grandstand. Heath got us underway, but it took only one minute for United to fashion the first chance, and for Heath forward Alex Laing- looking nervous after volunteering to play at left back- to feel the heat of Lanre Azeez. Two minutes later he was left in Azeez’s wake once more and conceded a free kick just outside the box, which was cleared desperately for a corner. The home side were certainly showing their intent.
A cross from Azeez saw the first real chance of the game in the 8th minute. He intelligently found Youseff Bamba at the far post, and the former Walton Casuals man forced Josh Heyburn to save well to his right, the rebound cleared away. Daniel Ajakaiye was the next to try his luck, his twisting and turning ending with a fall to the floor and a half-hearted appeal which the referee had no interest in- but the traffic was all one-way. Another Azeez cross, another corner, and Heath were living rather dangerously.
The speed of the United forwards was causing the away defence all sorts of trouble. On three occasions in quick succession the home side abandoned their usual close-passing rhythm to try a long through ball towards a runner, and twice Heyburn just got there first, but on the third occasion Bamba got past the keeper and was perhaps unlucky to find a defender blocking his way. The game was being played almost exclusively in the Heath half, with their forward battering rams of Andrew Dalhouse and Melford Simpson virtual spectators unless they were being called back to help out- rather successfully, it must be said- at corners.
For all that, Heath came closest to the opening goal. A loose backpass saw home keeper Louis Rogers having to scurry back and turn the ball around the post with his feet, conceding a corner. It would have been rather ironic if the first goal of the game had been scored by Heath without them actually creating a chance for themselves, but that’s almost what came to pass. Adam Lovatt looked mightily relieved, and rightly so.
The pace of the match had slowed down somewhat, and Heath began to feel their way into the game as we moved towards the half hour, but still the chances were all at the other end- Heyburn making another near post save, this time from Jack Dixon. And then, ten minutes before the break, the breakthrough- and it came to Heath. United had just wasted two corners, taking them short and losing the ball, when the yellows got a rare break. A lobbed pass saw Callum Saunders get clear of the defence, and their first shot on target was expertly placed past Rogers. The lead lasted one minute, and the equaliser was rather similar, Daniel Ajakaiye outpacing the defence to slot past Josh Heyburn. The striker hardly celebrated, jogging quickly back to the middle as if he thought enough time had been wasted already, but quite a bit more was wasted before the break- the only notable action coming when Simpson fired a shot past the post for Heath and United wasted another corner by taking it short and losing it. The hordes headed to the bar, the players to the dressing rooms, and the sun to hide behind the grey clouds that had reappeared across the sunshine coast.
Half Time - Hastings 1-1 Heath
Four minutes into the second half, Heath struck again. Alex Laing, who by now had come to terms with his left back slot rather well, lined up a free kick. He was a good twenty-five yards out, but he hit the ball sweetly and Rogers had no chance as it flashed past him into the net. It was a magnificent finish- but he had no time to stop and admire it. Within little more than a minute, Ajakaiye was once more charging into the box at the other end and firing an unstoppable shot across Heyburn into the net to level the match- his twenty eighth goal of the season, which is a rather spectacular return given it’s only the first weekend in March.
The away side threatened more in the first fifteen minutes of the second half than they had in the preceding forty-five. On fifty-seven minutes they had a goal disallowed for a foul on the keeper- rightly so- and at this point they absolutely deserved the parity they had, even if the balance of play had so far proved the old adage that there’s no point having the ball if you don’t do anything with it. A run from Trevor McCreadie saw him beat the keeper only to have his shot cleared just in front of the line, and a spell of yellow pressure followed. Hastings responded, and the match became stretched. The home fans, now ensconced in the big covered terrace behind the goal, began to sing Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. You could have said very much the same about the match being played out in front of them.
Mind you, the spaniel barking along in front of the main stand held the tune rather better.
As we approached the last quarter of an hour a spell of United pressure was ended when Bamba forced a diving save from Heyburn, and shortly afterwards we had the first change, Azeez coming off to applause to be replaced by Jordy Mongoy, a player with several goals in recent weeks so most definitely an attack-minded decision. Heath took the opportunity to bring on Omar Folkes for Dalhouse, very much like for like. Mongoy was soon in action, bringing another save from Heyburn, showing the same form he’d shown all afternoon. Could someone get a late winner?
Hastings were looking the most likely, but we’d been saying that all afternoon and they’d fallen behind twice. Ajakaiye got their next chance, with eight minutes remaining, but showed he was fallible after all by leaning back and ballooning the ball over the bar. United then wasted more attacking set pieces, showing the profligacy from dead ball situations that Chris Grayling shows when awarding ferry contracts- and then Heath only went and did it again! A long ball into the box, and Melford Simpson leant his considerable weight on the defender challenging him for the ball, who fell to the floor. Simpson retained his balance, and hammered home whilst the United fans in the stand yelled for a foul. They didn’t get one, and United would have to come back for a third time.
They tried. But then, in added time, Heath- on the break- put the game to bed. United had almost everyone up and keeper Rogers almost on the half way line when Heath broke. McCreadie got away from the defence, hared forward, and when about to be caught managed to toe-poke the ball home, which was the cue for many of the home fans to head to the exit. Heath may have had no more than thirty percent of possession, but they had sixty six percent of the goals.
Full Time - Hastings 2-4 Heath