Hastings boss: We're kicking off against our biggest title rivals

Action from Hastings' win over Herne Bay / Picture: Scott WhiteAction from Hastings' win over Herne Bay / Picture: Scott White
Action from Hastings' win over Herne Bay / Picture: Scott White
Hastings manager Chris Agutter believes they are starting their new Isthmian south east division title bid against their strongest contenders for the crown.

Cray Valley PM visit The Pilot Field for the league opener and Agutter puts them at the top of the list of sides who are a threat to United’s hopes of landing the title.

Hastings have had a solid pre-season and kicked off their competitive campaign with a 1-0 FA Cup win at home to Herne Bay last weekend.

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But it’s the league – and a chance to make up for the disappointment of seeing last season’s likely promotion being taken away by the decision to null and void the season – that is at the forefront of the club’s thoughts.

“Cray Valley are an excellent side and other than us, they would be top of my list for who would be expected to win the title,” Agutter told the Observer.

“They’re really well coached and have a good group of players.It will be a tough test against an attacking side. We’re bound to see two sides going for it, unlike in last weekend’s FA Cup game when Herne Bay parked the bus.”

Agutter has a few players missing. Veteran defender Gary Elphick is touch and go and striker Ben Pope is not 100 per cent, while star signing Lloyd Dawes had a scan yesterday to diagnose a knee injury the club fear could keep him out for a long time.

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But Agutter said he had a strong squad to select from – and said he, his staff and the players were just relieved to be returning to league business.

Many will expect the Us to lead the table after their dominance last year but Agutter said they did not feel under pressure.

“We don’t really talk about winning the league or promotion. It’s what we expect to achieve and the players know the expectations,” he said.

“Over the past couple of years I don’t think I’ve gone into a game without the expectation to win it.”

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Agutter is heartened by the way matches are selling out, with hundreds of Hastings locals keen to watch his side.

He said: “It’s brilliant. I think the support is becoming younger and I’m sensing that they’re embracing the way we play while supporting us loudly too. It’s like it’s a more modern-day support.”

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