Saturday, August 18, 2012
At the risk of lapsing into lazy clichés within the opening sentence of the first Ryman League match report of the season, United will play an awful lot worse during their 2012/13 campaign than they did on their maiden visit to The Beveree this afternoon and will still win handsomely.
There were brief periods during the contest, played on a baking hot day in south-west London, when Hampton & Richmond Borough, one of the sides relegated from Conference South last term and tipped by many to challenge strongly for an immediate return, held the upper hand. But the U's were essentially the dominant force over the course of the ninety minutes and provided genuine hope that Sean Ray's target of a top half finish can be achieved.
Resolute at the back and highly efficient in midfield, United looked much the better and more coherent of the two sides throughout and yet still returned to the south coast empty-handed, albeit for a couple of very clear reasons. The first was the poorly defended set piece that enabled Max Hustwick to rise unchallenged beyond the far post to head home James Simmonds' forty-fourth minute free kick that ultimately won the game. The second was their own indifferent finishing, which saw a number of presentable chances go to waste.
Zac Attwood went closest to securing that elusive equaliser, curling a free kick around the wall, but just the wrong side of Rodney Chiweshe's right hand post in the fourth minute of added time. That it took until the dying seconds to get that close tells a story in itself, far too many decent opportunities flying harmlessly over the crossbar, including a trio of earlier free kicks, all of them in the twenty to twenty-five yard range.
Despite their chiefly profligate finishing, the U's strikers did ensure that Chiweshe was kept the busier of the two keepers, Bradley Goldberg testing him from long range in the early stages and Attwood's header met by a flying stop later in the first half. Attwood then scuffed a shot when clean through within twenty seconds of the restart, while Dee Okojie was denied at the near post from a narrow angle.
That aside, Lee Carey, Attwood, Okojie and Bailo Camara each missed the target on more than one occasion, and although Danny Ellis missed the upright by a matter of inches rather than yards, not long after coming on as a second half substitute, the effect was still the same of course.
At the other end, Matt Armstrong-Ford certainly had one of his quieter games for the U's and could do little about Hustwick's matchwinning header. He did pull off one decent save to palm away a well struck shot from Beavers' sub Jon-Jo Bates with only a couple of minutes remaining, and was left utterly helpless when Joe Benjamin's right wing cross found the unmarked Charlie Moone for a horrible miss that would surely have haunted him had United found a leveller.
These proved to be only isolated moments of alarm at the back for the visitors though, with the relative familiarity of their line-up perhaps serving them better than their much changed hosts. Jack Dixon was the only absentee from the eleven that started against Metropolitan Police on the final day of 2011/12 and the new arrivals, Okojie, full back Elliott Cox and midfielder Tom Vickers, all appear to have slotted in seamlessly. If someone can just remember where they left the shooting boots, United can hopefully look forward to a year of fewer anxieties than usual.
The first home fixture of the season brings Margate to the Pilot Field on Tuesday, fresh from a 2-0 win against Hendon today. There are no easy games at this level, you know.
|Hampton & Richmond Borough||(1) 1||-||0 (0)||Hastings United|
|Match facts||Efforts on target||Efforts off target||Free kicks conceded||Corners|
|Hampton & Richmond Borough||2||3||19||1||2|
|Hampton & Richmond Borough (4-4-2)||Hastings United (4-3-3)|
|1 Rodney Chiweshe||1 Matt Armstrong-Ford|
|2 Malvin Kamara||2 Elliott Cox|
|3 Neil Jenkins (c)||3 Matt Whitehead|
|4 Tom Hickey||4 Lee Carey (c)|
|5 Max Hustwick||5 Sean Ray|
|6 Darren Powell||6 Josh Jirbandey|
|7 Joe Benjamin||7 Tom Vickers|
|8 Gary Holloway||8 Jamie Crellin|
|9 Charlie Moone||9 Bradley Goldberg|
|10 James Simmonds||10 Zac Attwood|
|11 Paul Johnson||11 Dee Okojie|
|12 Joe Turner (for Simmonds 73)||12 Bailo Camara (for Goldberg 61)|
|14 Jon-Jo Bates (for Benjamin 73)||14 Scott Manning|
|15 Karle Ciarder||15 Danny Ellis (for Vickers 64)|
|16 Anson Cousins (for Johnson 81)||16 Jono Richardson|
|17 Billy Jeffreys|
Referee: Thomas Ramsey
Assistants: James Garwood & James Pope