The Championship derby match did not disappoint and turned out to be a real ding-dong affair.
The Atha scored first; Hastings equalized and then went ahead in the second half only for the visitors to draw level again before the game was won – fittingly – by the Chairman with a strike ten minutes from the end.
The 3-2 scoreline was a great result for the Hornets but without quality keeping on both sides it would have been a goal rush.
Matty Longshanks staked his claim to derby glory with the first shot of the game and at the Rye Road end the Hornets’ keeper made a sharp right-hand save a minute later. But it was the Bexhill boys who struck first with Wee Darren’s first of the afternoon. A bobbling shot from wide right, looked like it was going wide, The Cat went down slower than the Titanic and the away crowd went wild as the shot crept under his toppling bulk. The Atha were inspired, smelled blood and began shooting from all angles, but The Cat was equal to everything else they threw at him with four decent saves.
Little Brian in the Bexhill goal was called into action too, making a string of good saves to foil Matty, The Chairman, The Riddler and Wingnut before the tall, cool Longshanks stepped up to power home another league goal. Matty really does turn it on when the chips are down and it was one-all at half time.
The Hornets were playing well from the back with Doc Dyer – as usual – calling the shots. He and Wingnut (and Marco van Gasman when he came on) played well out wide, taking balls from the keeper and fed the forward three. Matty and The Chairman both worked hard to hold the incoming balls and lay them off and the Hs definitely had more of the game.
HR Mark was the target man for the Atha and he barely got a shot off. Both his first-half efforts were snuffed out by the Cat – one a super, full-length tip onto the post. At the back, HR Hassan tried to dominate play but was left wanting as usual. Teacher Roger is such a confident player that his forward runs were always dangerous.
At the turnaround with MVG and Posh Andy on, the Hornets began to turn the screw and Doc Dyer was able to push forward. And it was his effort that forced Brian into his only error, with a long range shot squeezing under him, a la The Cat in the first 20.
With the lead and playing well, The Hornets’ marking went a little astray and this allowed Darren in for his really well-taken second to equalize. It could easily have stayed like that but the Hornets were hungry for a win over their close neighbours and continued to press.
It took the goal of the game to beat Brian and it was Scouse Phil who scored it, taking a lovely little through-ball from Posh, turning and striking without thinking. A proper striker’s goal.
Defensively, Wingnut, MvG, Doc, Posh and The Chairman all made important blocks or tackles and shrewd management from Massive Mark, taking the blue-carded Riddler off, with minutes to go sealed the victory.
Trigger picked up a knock and was off his game but had one really good shot well saved by the Atha keeper. Aside from The Cat’s howler, the only two other unforced errors – which went unpunished by the visitors – was a daft corner conceded by Posh when a back pass was on and a HUGE MvG clearance from the back which hit the far fence without bouncing.
Otherwise it was a very tidy performance which delighted manager Mark. The match was keenly contested and well-reffed by Mick Davies who turned a deaf ear to shouts from the visitors’ touchline exhorting him to get his card out for what looked like a sliding tackle but was actually Wingnut falling over. A good result for the home side, surely putting the Hornets at the top of the table and always satisfying to put the HR lads firmly in their place.
Men of the Match: The Atha’s man of the match was clearly keeper Brian and the Hornets’ accolade goes to The Chairman for an excellent 40 minutes of effort and the winning goal.