Hastings United’s footballers ended a four-game winless run with a 3-0 cup victory at home to AFC Uckfield Town last night (Monday).
Although comfortable in the end, it was hardly a convincing performance from the U’s and the scoreline was harsh on an Uckfield side which gave a good account of themselves considering they play two levels further down the non-league pyramid.
Uckfield, who are second in Macron Store Sussex County Football League Division Two, certainly had their chances and Ryman Football League Division One South club United scored two goals direct from free kicks.
In a Parafix Sussex Senior Challenge Cup second round tie switched to The Pilot Field after two postponements at The Oaks last month, United had the first opening when Evan Archibald’s shot was pushed aside by away goalkeeper Tom Bradford at his near post.
But Uckfield, who doubtless would’ve enjoyed the first class playing surface, came close as United defender Marc Pullan headed against his own crossbar and the U’s then needed a timely tackle from Sean Ray as Uckfield were about to shoot at the end of a good move.
Archibald headed wide from a Sam Adams cross and against the post from Taser Hassan’s delivery before United opened the scoring in the 34th minute thanks to a moment of real quality from their captain.
The referee awarded United a free kick right on the edge of the box for a foul on Hassan - much to Uckfield’s obvious displeasure - and Adams stepped up to pick out the top corner with a delightful strike for his third goal in four matches.
United struggled to really stamp their authority on the game, though, and Uckfield weren’t far away from an equaliser on the stroke of half time when Elliott Wood headed just over from Dan Dunford’s right wing free kick.
Sam Cruttwell forced Bradford into a diving save at his near post with a cross-cum-shot early in the second period and Archibald shot wide from an Adams pass, but Pelling came to the rescue at the other end with an important save after Joe Miller cut out Ray’s back pass.
Bradford made a diving stop from a long range effort by Tom Vickers, yet was unable to keep out Cruttwell’s 61st minute free kick which cleared the wall and crept inside the near post to give United a two-goal cushion.
That ought to have been that, but Uckfield hadn’t thrown in the towel. Harry Mills prodded just wide, Howard Davey’s shot was saved by the legs of Pelling and the visitors also had a strong penalty appeal for handball turned down.
At the other end, Charlie Farmer’s header from a Cruttwell corner bounced up onto the crossbar and Kenny Pogue headed home another Cruttwell flag kick at the near post to round-off the scoring in the 86th minute.
Victory in United’s first cup game at The Pilot Field this season has set up another home tie in round three against in-form Burgess Hill Town on a date to be announced.
United: Pelling, Hunt, Farmer, Cruttwell, Ray, Pullan (T. Olorunda 63), Vickers, Adams (Holden 86), Pogue, Archibald, Hassan (Temba 79). Subs not used: Hopkinson, Hanifan.