United crave new year cheer

Action from Hastings United's most recent outing against Burgess Hill Town in the Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup on Monday, last week. Picture courtesy Joe Knight
Action from Hastings United's most recent outing against Burgess Hill Town in the Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup on Monday, last week. Picture courtesy Joe Knight

Hastings United supporters will be desperately hoping the dawn of a new year can provide something to cheer.

This coming weekend is two years on from the football club’s phenomenal FA Cup adventure culminating with a third round clash away to Middlesbrough.

More than 1,000 United fans made the long journey to the north-east to watch a hugely creditable performance in defeat against a club now targeting promotion to the Premier League which was capped by a memorable goal from Bradley Goldberg.

United attracted regional and national media coverage during that historic cup run, and their second round replay victory over Harrogate Town was watched by over 4,000 fans at a sold-out Pilot Field, plus a live television audience on ESPN.

Those exploits and the finances they generated really ought to have been the springboard for the club to kick on up the non-league ladder, but instead of moving forward, United have gone into reverse.

The U’s were relegated at the end of 2012/13 season after finishing rock-bottom of the Ryman Football League Premier Division and missed out on an immediate return following defeat in the Division One South play-off semi-finals last term.

Despite the optimism generated by several eye-catching summer signings and possessing a very healthy playing budget, United will end 2014 languishing in 19th place - a state of affairs that would have seemed unthinkable when they returned from Teesside.

Only two players - then player-manager Sean Ray and Tom Vickers - remain from the squad which played at The Riverside Stadium, and present boss Dom Di Paola is the third permanent manager since Ray.

United’s first priority for 2015 must be to climb away from the lower reaches of the table and then to start building a side the town can be proud of once again.

Di Paola said: “We need three wins on the spin. If we get three wins on the spin, I think we’ll turn the corner. I think we’ve got enough about us to see us really progress.

“We’re doing all we can at the moment from a managerial point of view. We’re trying to improve what we’ve got, trying to improve how we play, but some weeks it comes together better than others.”