No more room for slip-ups as Hastings United try to keep play-off bid alive

Hastings United boss Chris Agutter has admitted the Us may need to win all their remaining games if they’re to claim an Isthmian premier play-off spot.
Davide Rodari goes close for Hastings United at Horsham | Picture: Scott WhiteDavide Rodari goes close for Hastings United at Horsham | Picture: Scott White
Davide Rodari goes close for Hastings United at Horsham | Picture: Scott White

A 2-1 loss at Horsham last weekend has left United in ninth place – seven points off the final play-off place with eight games to go.

Agutter was disappointed by the slow start he said cost them the game against the high-flying Hornets but said all they could now was go into every game trying to win and see where that took them.

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The end-of-season hopes come as the club plan for the longer-term too – making top scorer Davide Rodari and captain Adam Lovatt the latest to be handed new contracts taking their deals to the end of the 2024-25 season.

Already on similar deals are Tommie Fagg, Tom Chalmers, Kian Moynes, Freddie Legg and Charlie Grainger.

Reflecting on the Horsham loss, Agutter said: “It was a slow start – sloppy and loose, but we could still have got something from the game.

"We found ourselves 2-0 down and that really came from us shooting ourselves in the foot rather than anything Horsham had done.

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"We weathered an early storm and were building momentum when we were on the end of another interesting decision – conceding a penalty for a foul which was outside the box. It was clearly outside, but I’m almost embarrassed to keep mentioning some of the decisions we’re seeing.

"Their keeper Lewis Carey made a great save from Davide, who also missed an open goal – so it could have been 2-2 at half-time.

"In the second half we were pushing and got one back through Sam Cruttwell, but we also missed one great opportunity and another the last kick.

"It was disappointing but what’s pleasing is we’ve played almost all the top five recently and competed well with all of them. It’s going to be tough now. I had thought we’d need to another 20 points to finish in the play-offs but now you’re thinking ‘do we need to win every game?’ We’’ll keep battling and see where we finish.”

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Two games over Easter could give Hastings new impetus – or end their challenge. They go to Haringey on Good Friday afternoon, then welcome Folkestone to the Pilot Field on Easter Monday.

Agutter said: “It’s such a competitive league – some good teams are near the bottom and you can’t say any one game is going to be easy. Haringey are a decent side who have a new manager, while Folkestone are still fairly early in a new manager’s tenure and can’t be taken lightly.”

Fagg is one match into a four-game ban for picking up his second red card recently – United appealed against the sending-off but lost the case.

Meanwhile the manager said he was delighted to see Rodari and Lovatt sign new deals. It is fairly unusual for a club at Hastings’ level of the non-league pyramid to have so many players tied down beyond the current season.

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"Davide is the top scorer in the league and there’s a case for Adam being the best midfield player in the league,” Agutter said. “We are pleased to agree contracts for players we feel are really important to the club now and longer-term.

"Both have had offers to go elsewhere but have not gone, which is a glowing recommendation for what we are doing at Hastings. They’re both players who have played at a higher level and could again.”

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