Hastings Front Team 3 Hastings Hornets 0
A lost tribe in the Amazon may yet be ignorant of the fact that our two teams played each other yesterday but this deficiency will doubtless be remedied soon by an airdropped hard copy of “The Hastings Observer”.
Was anybody else held up on the way to the game by the diversions around West Hill? At one point my driver was going to simply bulldoze his way through the barricades. “I think we’ll just take them on Jay!” he muttered. Useful at Arnhem perhaps but not ideal as prep for a match.
Early doors, Ali (plucked from the Gatwick arrivals hall only hours before) scored with what looked suspiciously like a toe-punt after he had evaded Dean. He was adjudged to be inside Colin’s area with video evidence confirming this.
Blakie was the first man in red to be subbed though this was simply to give everybody game time. I saw no fall-off in his usual stratospheric standards. Indeed, midway through the first half as Chairman settled himself a little leisurely for a shot, Blakie robbed him at a speed suggesting a viper pouncing on its prey. This is not the Tenterden man’s first rodeo.
The Cat, who was monumental all morning, initially kept his side in it when he blocked a thumping effort from Beaky down the left at his near post. Minutes later, Beaky bombarded him again. This time it was from a more central position and our Henry VIII/Churchill interpreter flashed out a strong right hand low down.
First black and white cab off the rank was Rick who replaced Ali, it always having been the intention to rotate the strikers. Rick turned acutely, proved troublesome during tussles with Deano and frequently laid off to Chairman. And Chairman for his own part was finding Posh in space on the left wing with deft searching balls.
Moments after the Cat had made yet another save from Beaky, El Jay created a few yards of space centrally, leant forward and hit a low bounding shot with top spin past the Cat’s outstretched right arm. Front Team 1- Hornets 0.
A spy tells me that Russ’s half-time talk was a thing of beauty. But the Front Team were so focused, he could have been reading out the telephone directory and he would have gone down like the Gettysburg Address. Iron Russ had played quite high early in the first half before dropping back into a string-pulling role from central defence. His influence could be felt all over the park.
The Peruvian one came to the fore early in the second half, forcing a reflex push-away by the Cat from close quarters. And the Hornets keeper was soon confounded by a low skidding effort from El Jay who made a crisp contact despite tumbling into the shot. Front Team 2- Hornets 0. But Cat got the better of El Jay moments later as he came to the edge of his area and sprawled in front of Pett Level’s newest resident.
All this was a little too speedy by the attacker for the man in black. Phil told El Jay that, yellow boots or not, he could jog off (two minutes – blue card) for persistent running, a punishment and walk of shame that the former man-bunned one took with good grace. It is the Spanish Kid’s second set of yellow boots, this pair bought by his sons out of their pocket money. They will have watched the video by now and seen the footwear christened.
Finally, a precisely weighted pass from Beaky found Peru Mick close-in on goal and he spun a ball low into the Cat’s left corner. Front Team 3- Hornets 0.
Colin only had to really exert himself once in the opening minutes when he pulled off a fine diving save from a goal-bound Posh effort. The Front Team’s stopper used wonderful roll-outs, often opting for the brave long ball down the centre channel to El Jay.
There was fine light comedy as Chairman chastised Rick for taking his shirt off. (DLTN claimed there was a shortage of shirts, the resulting confusion producing more quick costume changes than a vaudeville act.)
Generally, the Hornets were as easy on the eye as their burgundy-clad opponents. There were expansive cross-field passes from Leg Rog, Posh and Mattie, often with the outside of the foot. Exhilarating stuff. The only criticism might be that at other times there was no width; there were moments when you could have thrown a blanket over the entire Hornets attack.
The Firsts impressed throughout being fluid and spontaneous at set pieces though Deano was dismissive of one obvious thwarted move: “They could have read that off the bloody Bible!”
It was fitting that Phil the ref blew for time immediately after yet another fine Cat save from a long-range Jimbo effort that had shot through like a marble. Phil chose to patrol the game largely from the nearside flank and had a thing going with Leg Rog. This unlikely duo has latent comic potential and will be seen in late-season pantomimes across the south-east shortly.
So, the difference between the teams? “A gulf in class Jay?” enquired one nameless Hornet who is an aspiring writer himself. Certainly not.
My judgement is that the real difference lies in quality of final ball and close control. There is banter on WhatsApp about the Front Team talking more. Well, the Firsts do talk more, even to the point of chiding each other for being quiet and not asking for the ball.
Small margins so the Front Team may wish to have their ‘A’ game for the return fixture. Piqued at the trio of goals, the Hornets will be like bears defending a cave and may be boosted by the return of the prince of centre backs, Puffing Paul.
Thank you to Phil for being a fair and unobtrusive ref who still exerted control whenever needed. Carole fed and watered us well as usual. Given the nature of what was on show there could have been more spectators. A few Bexhill players arrived after their game. Otherwise, spectators were Pete the Keep, Ken the Bass, Tug (briefly) and Granite Bob sporting a month’s beard and coughing like a gorilla.
MoM: The Cat. Six brilliant saves topped off by wonderful high-risk but faultless distribution.