Isthmian League

Preview | Hastings United (H)

It’s the return of everyone’s favourite competition. Ignore the World Cup, for the Velocity Cup is coming at you real fast in tonight’s tantalising Sussex derby between two familiar foes. In this corner we have Whitehawk, rocked and shocked by a first defeat in the league on Saturday afternoon. And in the other corner, weighing 129 years, is Hastings United.

A Heavyweight matchup, this. Quarter Final on the line as Gary Elphick’s apparent ‘kids’ journey west to Whitehawk for a clash beneath the lights. Shaun Saunders’ side have shown they can play at home, whilst Elphick’s youthful side impressed in their 2-1 win over Corinthian Casuals in the last round – a competition that, supposedly, they didn’t mean to enter. On with the tour?

Last time out

Not the best, to be honest. Beckenham Town the hosts, there’s a reason why they’re perched high up the table. It’s the same reason as to how they got to within one win of the FA Cup First Round Proper: they’re a good team. A goal either side of half time was enough to condemn Whitehawk to a first league defeat. Invincibles no more, any lingering pressure is now off the table.

But it was a 2-0 that probably shouldn’t have been a 2-0. A first half commandeered by the Hawks, there were doinked posts, near open goals missed, strong penalty claims dismissed…need we go on? Steven Townsend’s cross creeped in off the post to break the deadlock, and a really rather questionable penalty went against Whitehawk and Stefan Wright soon after the restart – Louie Theophanous applying the second.

As one looks back to that bitter Autumn afternoon in south London, fans and players will agree that it just wasn’t going to be the day of the hawk. That’s fine, bad days happen. But now it’s all about the response.

The opposition

Sat in 10th six points adrift of the playoffs, Elphick’s team have started things promisingly in the Isthmian Premier after finally sealing promotion at the third attempt due to the pandemic. Justice, then, for a side deserving of the accolade as they storm into tonight on the back of being knocked out of the FA Trophy by Chippenham Town.

In their only previous Velocity Cup match, The U’s would play a much rotated side as goals from Bermudan international Knory Scott and Chinedu McKenzie helped overcome second-from-bottom side Corinthian Casuals. Another changed side is expected tonight that should give Saunders some piece of mind with on-loan Gillingham starlet Joe Gbode likely to miss out.

Kai Brown is favoured to start against his former club tonight after he spent a short period of time with the East Sussex side earlier in the season – we’re certainly glad he’s on our side. And the clinical Ben Pope, captain Sam Adams and the charged Sam Hasler are all expected to sit this one out.

Previous encounters

In recent years Hastings have had the hex over the Hawks with The U’s winning five and drawing two of the previous seven encounters between the two clubs. Most inside The Enclosed Ground would have been pleased to have seen the back of our Sussex adversaries, but now they return to Brighton with Whitehawk in the ascendancy.

In last year’s encounters it was that similarly dreary affair as new manager at the time, Ross Standen, watched on as his side were unfortunate to fall to a 2-0 defeat in front of 1,214 onlookers. The return fixture at The Enclosed Ground brewed a similarly disheartening taste: Finn O’Mara’s header in the 43rd minute the lone goal in a testing, thrilling contest.

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