Burwash 0 Hastings United 1
We might often wonder about the benefits of a really vocal coach. A coach that doesn’t kick a ball but plays every tackle, every pass and every shot from the sidelines. A coach who shouts himself hoarse after 40 minutes of encouragement and masterminded a tough away win which keeps the Front side in the hunt for championship glory.
Step forward Russell Small and take a bow. He’s never been heard so much and listened to so well in a single match for Hastings United.
We have been to the swift-floored gym at Robertsbridge and been undone in the past by the hard-to-beat Burwash outfit. But tonight the Fronts stood tall, played the whole match as a tight six and came away with a one-nothing victory courtesy of a super snapshot by El Jay just before half time.
Since being pressed into service as centre forward during Massive Mark’s injury lay-off, the Spanish bun boy has rewarded the coach’s faith in him with more than a goal a game. The fact that he’s also picked up more blue cards than anybody else in the squad is almost immaterial.
Tonight he spent his customary two minutes in the sin bin, saw the Famous Five hold the line while he was cooling his heels on Ref Stumpy’s naughty step, and came back on in time to side- foot a lovely short ball from Captain Blakey into the roof of the Burwash net. It was just reward for a barrage of shots from the Fronts. We had six shots just off target in the first half and an incredible 15 attempts on goal in the second. In fact, if it hadn’t have been for Laurence in the Burwash goal it could have been a landslide.
The stand-in home keeper made a fabulous fingertip save to his right to deny El Jay his second and made two great stops from Peruvian Mick and another pair from Blakey. Jimbo and Wingnut and all the other outfield players had chances just wide and the skinny gritter fluffed the best chance of the night through on goal one on one. A second touch and a little chip – like he does in training every week – would have seen him double our lead. Jimbo showed a deft touch with two exceptional backheels which split the Burwash defence but came to nothing.
It sounds as though it was all Hastings but it couldn’t be further from the truth: Gig had to make a sharp save in the dying seconds of the first half and made three good stops in the second.
Colin was beaten once when the wily Burwash striker placed it under him but the ball struck the post and bounced to safety. You need a bit of luck as a keeper and that was Colin’s only call on the Lady all evening.
The linking play in midfield was a joy to watch with Mick, Jimbo and Blakey all playing to and from El Jay in the centre. And Wingnut and Blakey heard every call from the touchline and kept the home side’s threat down. Wingnut was guilty of two awful balls to opposition strikers which they snatched at, and El Jay inexplicably put their centre forward through with a poor back pass only for Gig to save the day.
A goal, a series of unselfish passes and a huge presence which rattled the strong Burwash defence sees El Jay and his magic yellow boots get the man of the match award.
But the home side keeper ran him a close second with his agility, particularly under the second half bombardment.
And if there was an award for coach of the night it was only going one way. Iron Russ did as much off the pitch as the lads did on it to secure the win. Perhaps the rousing chorus of Playing the Game with Hastings united from Chairs, Ricky and The Cat before kick off did the trick too? Ken the Bass’s song is our anthem and we ought to sing it loud and proud before every game.