Defeat it was on the opening day of the season in Margate, though the Hawks will feel hard done by after a long-range Phil Roberts fizzer snuck in at the near post 10 minutes from time following an even affair on the field.
Jack Dixon had levelled the scores moments before the interval, beautifully firing home from the corner of the box after Roberts had already sent ‘The Gate’ in front with a cute finish on 34 minutes.
But those are the fine margins that will decide games in this division. A new-look line-up showed cohesion and character, and with each passing game those players will gel quicker.
For Hastings United, their campaign commenced with a 1-1 draw at home to Cheshunt – Femi Akinwande’s penalty on the stroke of half-time cancelling out James Meehan’s 29th minute strike.
There were seven competitive debuts on Saturday as Mitch Walker, Joe Tennent, Ryan Worrall, Jack Dixon, Charlie Walker and Louis Collins all started, whilst Dominic Johnson-Fisher got his first taste of the Isthmian Premier, replacing Collins in the 81st minute.
Defensive newcomers in Sinn’kaye Christie and Tom Cadman took their place on the bench, whilst Charlie Lambert and Luke Glover were the other two unused subs.
A point it was on the first fixture of the campaign for Paul Barnes’ new Hastings United side. Previously Head Coach of Dulwich Hamlet, Barnes took over the role of U’s head coach in May, bringing almost 20 years of coaching experience with him to The Pilot Field.
Dixon, Worrall and Ben Pope all made the switch along the coast in the summer from Hastings to Whitehawk, with all playing an integral part over the past few seasons. Dixon was previously club captain, whilst Pope shared the golden boot with Joe Gbode, both scoring nine in the league, and 12 in all competitions.
It’s a mightily different side to the one that finished in a laudable 8th position last season – their first back in the Isthmian Premier after finally escaping the clutches of the division below.
One to Watch | Davide Rodari: Originally joining Hastings in 2017 after an illustrious youth career in Italy, Rodari was snapped up by Crawley Town in 2021 following a fine few seasons on the Sussex coast. Featuring 13 times for ‘The Reds’, he would find the net on just the one occasion in a 4-1 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers.
And after a series of loan spells with Worthing, Dorking and Dartford, Hastings confirmed just a few weeks ago that Rodari would be returning home following the expiration of his contract with Crawley Town.
The two sides last met on December 27, 2021 at The Enclosed Ground on windy afternoon in East Brighton. 479 watched on as Finn O’Mara’s goal on 43 minutes was enough to separate the sides, further propelling the U’s higher up the league in what would be their final season in the division.
In the reverse fixture, Hastings claimed that one, too, as goals from Sam Hasler and Pope saw off Ross Standen’s Hawks in the early stages of the season.
Stat: The Hawks have failed to beat Hastings in each of their previous seven competitive meetings, with our last win coming on April 1, 2013 – a 2-0 victory under manager Darren Freeman!