Big games often turn on small moments. And that’s what happened at Les Academias Decrepido this afternoon.
The crunch Sussex Premiership clash between Hastings United and Bexhill was settled within two minutes. A tricksy shot from Massive Mark spun awkwardly towards Big H in the Bexhill goal and crept in unkindly off the keeper’s heel.
The visitors were stunned by the early goal and never really got back into the game. When the Cookie Monster made it two-nil after 11 minutes the game was settled.
On paper, two very even sides squared up but United dominated long periods of the game. They strung together some excellent, unhurried passing – one move of 16 passes another of 20 and a remarkable run of 26 – and when Bexhill did break through, Ricky was up to everything making a couple of good saves from PC Perry and Silver Alan.
Bexhill managed six shots in total and Hastings nine. It started frantically with a visitors’ corner after 30 seconds and a chance for Cookie at the other end a few seconds later, well saved by H’s flailing feet. Poison Pete got an early shot away for Bexhill but Rick made an easy save. And when Russ made contact with dangerman Alan, he was on hand to block the free kick.
Mark’s goal settled the home side and skipper Russ began running the show from the back. Time and again a forward thrust came back to him to start another move. Chris Start made his presence felt by upending Wondy not once, but twice, and it was inevitable he was going to eventually get a blue card which he was shown after another tough challenge with minutes left in the game. He did well to flatten Massive Mark, the biggest bloke on the pitch by a country mile.
Bexhill’s two best moments came with cross box balls from Alan that Perry latched onto but couldn’t convert, and then a fine rushing save from Ricky using his not inconsiderable belly to foil Alan. Cookie’s goal from a superb assist by Blakey put the home side two up at half time.
In the second period, Mark made a good block after Blakey was pulled up for running and a Popovic shot was high wide and mighty for Bexhill. By now, Hastings were really turning the screw and the visitors were right out of ideas. There were a couple of excellent three-way links up front between Mark, El Jay and Brian and all three had shots either saved by H or just wide in a dominant five-minute spell.
El Jay was really up for it. Stung after being left out at the start, you could tell he was going to come up with something special. He put Mark in on goal with a great ball only to see the big fellah uncharacteristically weak with his finish. Wondy, after another fierce tussle with CS, put a beaut. of a ball to the Spanish exile on the right of the box and his finish was the best of the game, giving H no chance. 3-0.
It was a strangely comfortable win with so much at stake. The ref was strict on running and penalized the Hastings lads time and again. But there was no arguing and although heads were shaken, tempers did not fray. Russ really has found his slot at the back and was easily the best player on the pitch. His rashness in early ties has gone and has been replaced with a wise old head that’s been in the game longer than he cares to remember. He is a fitting man of the match.
Carol laid on a great spread for the visitors who have been beaten twice in two visits to the Academy. Will next week’s Hornets clash with the Old Stars at Bexhill college make a fine triple for United? Watch this space…