The Old Bexhillians came to Fortress Ore this afternoon and left with a deserved win.
They didn’t just storm the gates of the Academy, they scaled the walls, murdered the occupants and burned the citadel – and there was little Hastings could do about it. Football at this level turns on the tiniest moments and two goals inside a minute in the second half were enough to break United hearts and send the predominately rebel-reject crowd home a-smirking.
Bexhill – under their new coach Duncan Oddsocks – were organised at the back and dangerous in attack and a couple of United niggling injuries and an off day or two were enough to unseat last year’s champions. It was a lesson learned in complacency and the Hastings lads took it well. Despite being outplayed for much of the game their heads never went down and with a tiny bit of luck they might have snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat.
The story of the match will be discussed loudly in chip shops for weeks to come.
Hastings started the better team and coasted for five minutes until El Jay put them ahead. He was carrying a thigh strain and was started by Coach Russ, probably against his better judgement. His goal and three other first-half efforts justified his inclusion but being highly immobile as the half progressed it left United a man short on the track-back and Bexhill began to exploit this.
Dougie was immense at the centre of the tight Bexhill unit and his linking play with Cookie-Monster began to pay off. On 12 minutes, an El Jay shot was chested away by Big John Macrae in the Bexhill goal which set up a length-of-the-field play. Cookie found himself confronted by two United defenders on the edge of the box and danced through them to score low past Gig Bateman in the Hastings goal.
To that point Gig hadn’t had a shot to save but he redeemed himself by getting a foot to an effort from former Battle Knight, Dougie, another of Bexhill’s summer signings.
Beaky was playing well and linking well with Blakey down the right and his turn and snapshot was agonisingly wide so the teams went in one each at half time.
And after the break Bexhill continued their dominance.
Jimbo (on for the Spanish kid) and Beaky both went close but saw their efforts beaten away by Big John. Gig saved well from Darren who replaced Steve Over up front. Completely different players but both great target men. Jimbo shot inches wide with his second effort and then Beaks hit the bar after Dougie tripped on the edge of the box. He claimed he had been pushed but if Beaky had hit the target the goal would have stood.
Iron Russ – pushing forward – curled a beauty just wide and then an in-form Blakey, the best player on the pitch by a country mile, scored after the whistle blew for a United foul. With Beaky shooting straight at BJ with his next effort it was Bexhill’s turn to pressure the home side.
And it was a cock-up of enormous proportions which gave them the lead. Gig rolled to Russ, who let Cookie nip in and rattle it home. Two-one Bexhill. An uncharacteristic mistake and being behind to the OB team an alien feeling.
It was compounded 50 seconds later when Steve Overs loped through with a well-placed shot while Colin was still shell-shocked in the Hastings goal. Three-one to the visitors.
It stayed like that for nine minutes until Jimbo slotted home – a just reward for his debut place. It was the goal of the game. A one-two between Russ and Blakey saw the lanky defender put a pitch-perfect ball in Jimbo’s path and the new boy did the rest. 2-3.
It was all Hastings for the last five minutes but United couldn’t find a way through.
The Old Bexhillians dominated large parts of a good, fast game well-reffed by Mark Vincent. There was nothing brutal about this hard-fought derby and even handbags between Russ and Dougie came to nothing more than a quiet word from the man in the middle.
Deano impressed when he came on late and allowed Russ to push forward but it wasn’t to be. It was the visitors’ day.