Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Ok, let's start with the positives.
United extended their unbeaten run in the league to four matches, keeper Lloyd Anderson kept his third clean sheet of the season, and the U's edged back up into fifteenth place in the table, after a goalless draw with Leatherhead at the Pilot Field this evening.
Once again though, the manner of the performance left an awful lot to be desired, and the U's were frankly fortunate to emerge with a share of the spoils, against a managerless side that had achieved just a solitary point in eight games following promotion to the Premier Division via the Division One South play-offs last May.
A tally of three attempts on goal during ninety minutes must rank as an unacceptably poor return, no matter what the standard of the opposition, and while Leatherhead were far from overly productive themselves, they at least showed some attacking flair and kept the United defence honest by maintaining a three man forward line throughout the contest.
Contrast that to the U's regular 4-5-1 formation, in which Fred Foreman's creative ability seems increasingly wasted in the lone striker role, and Kenny Pogue continues to struggle without sufficient support. In fact, it wasn't until Youth Team forward Lee Paine came on for his senior debut that United built some attacking momentum of their own, and although the youngster was unable to take advantage of two decent openings, his very presence simply provided the U's with an extra option up front, and having one midfielder fewer on the pitch appeared to give right back Jack Dixon more space to exploit in the advanced positions where he always looks more assured.
It was hard not to see the irony in Anderson's nomination as the sponsors' man of the match. United's keeper did make one important first half save, to deny marauding left winger Greg Andrews, who had broken clean through into the area, but Anderson's only other serious action came in stoppage time, when he blocked, fumbled and belatedly gathered a twenty-five yard effort by Leatherhead substitute Kevin Terry.
The combined pace of Andrews, central striker Tommy Hutchings, and Jack Macleod down the right hand side, provided a constant threat to the home defence, but to be fair, United's back four managed to keep Anderson well enough protected, largely restricting the Tanners to long range efforts, with Hutchings twice, Vernon Francis and caretaker manager Mark Simmons all missing the target. The counter-attacking menace was always tangible however, and it took a superb recovery tackle by Matt Hall to deny Macleod a simple tap-in after Hutchings raced clear down the right.
United produced glimpses of the attractive passing football game that Jason Hopkinson continues to try and instill in his team, but the end product is still woefully lacking, Ben Billings failing to find a finish to match Foreman's intelligent lay-off after intercepting an underhit backpass by Dan Dean, and later unable to connect properly with Lee Carey's excellent cross.
Jamie Crellin was inches away from converting a Foreman cross, while with virtually the last kick of the match, a Hall free kick narrowly evaded Josh Jirbandey in the Leatherhead area, but the worrying fact remains that United have managed only one goal from open play in six games at the Pilot Field this season, a statistic that desperately needs to be addressed before high flying Hendon call in on Saturday week.
Before that, assuming the Essex club do not require an FA Cup replay, Hopkinson takes his side to Billericay next Tuesday, far from a happy hunting ground for United in recent years.
|Hastings United||(0) 0||-||0 (0)||Leatherhead|
|Match facts||Efforts on target||Efforts off target||Free kicks conceded||Corners|
|Hastings United (4-5-1)||Leatherhead (4-3-3)|
|1 Lloyd Anderson||1 Chico Ramos|
|2 Jack Dixon||2 Liam Pestle (c)|
|3 Ross Sutton||3 Rob Hill|
|4 Jamie Crellin||4 Chris Boulter|
|5 Sean Ray (c)||5 Dan Dean|
|6 Josh Jirbandey||6 Vernon Francis|
|7 George Jones||7 Jack Macleod|
|8 Lee Carey||8 Mark Simmons|
|9 Matt Hall||9 Greg Andrews|
|10 Fred Foreman||10 Tommy Hutchings|
|11 Ben Billings||11 Elliott Thompson|
|12 Kenny Pogue (for Jones 47)||12 Kevin Terry (for Hutchings 78)|
|14 Dan Bolwell (for Billings 65)||14 Danny Gainsford (for Pestle 19)|
|15 Scott Manning||15 Gary Drewett (for Thompson 59)|
|16 Lee Paine (for Foreman 71)||16 Nathan Simpson|
|17 Jack Walder||17 Audie Matheson-Light|
Referee: John Pike (Hurstpierpoint)
Assistants: Gary Hamilton (Brighton) & Theo Parfitt (Heathfield)