The Hillians were victorious on our last trip to the Pilot Field but Hastings proved just why they cantered to the Isthmian South East title last season, fending off a very spirited Burgess Hill performance.
Burgess Hill started the contest seeing a lot of the ball and looking to be positive and on the front foot but with the first time that Hastings won the ball, it ended up going into the back of Tommy Reid’s net. It was far too simple for Jay Lovett’s liking I am sure, one long ball over the top was misjudged by Josh Spinks and former Hillian Ben Pope was in on goal, Tommy Reid was caught in no man’s land and from the edge of the area, Pope dinked the ball over Reid and into the back of net. Ruthless. It could’ve and probably should’ve been 2-0 10 minutes later as Hastings almost caught the Hillians on the counter. It all started with a Hill long throw but we left ourselves desperately open at the back, Sam Adams played in Tom Chalmers who was bearing down on goal but fortunately for Hill he crashed his effort into the side netting. Let off. The U’s next chance was about 10x harder to score from. The downside? It flew into Tommy Reid’s top corner before he could even gulp. There seemed to be no danger as Hastings CB, Alex Brefo had the ball in the centre circle, he wondered forward and unleashed an absolutely unstoppable 25 yard weak foot screamer which flew into a helpless Tommy Reid’s top corner to double the hosts advantage. It was absolutely raining goals in East Sussex. How do the Hillians respond to going 2 down to a step 3 side? By getting themselves back in it, of course. Josh Spinks kept a Connor Tighe corner alive at the far post and his low cross was met by a trio of Max Miller, Jeff Duah-Kessie and Dan Perry who all made an attempt to score. To the surprise of nobody, it was Hitman Dan who’s boot made contact with the football, sending it past Louis Rogers and the 2 men on the line to spark a comeback into life. That goal spurred the Hill on and minutes later they should’ve been level. A Connor Tighe free kick was sent to the far post and absolutely nobody in claret picked up the run of Josh Spinks who ghosted in round the back, powered his header on target but somehow Louis Rogers got a fingertip to it to help it over the cross bar.
The Hillians needed to defend well and take the chances when they fell to them if they were to cause a shock at the Field but the crucial 4th goal came early in the second half for the hosts. This was a really pleasant team move by the hosts who spread the ball from left to right, eventually setting former Eastbourne Borough defender Jake Elliot away and inbehind down the right, his low cross skidded across the box and there was Ben Pope at the far post to tap home his second and the U’s third to restore a buffer for Gary Elphicks men. Those Hillians just don’t give up, do they? Once again they found themselves down by 2, once again they reduced the arrears to 1. There was a strong bit of fortune about this goal but you make your own luck, Max Miller crossed the ball in from the right which Louis Rogers looked to claim, he got 2 hands on the ball but as he went to land, he fell on his own defender Jake Elliot which saw the ball come tumbling out of his hands and loose, Kieran Rowe latched onto the stray ball and found Dan Perry who did the rest, smashing home his second of the game. The Hillians did the hard work, twice but they just couldn’t stop Hastings offensively and with 17 minutes to go, another ex Hillian striker finally dealt the killer blow. A cross from the right was powered towards goal, Tommy Reid made the save but in doing so, only launched the ball skywards and it fell for Chinedu McKenzie to head home from virtually on the goal-line. There was only so much the Hill could take before they eventually ran out of steam, the 4th goal seemed to do that and the latter stages of the contest were controlled by the hosts. It could’ve been a 5th for the hosts late on but Tommy Reid first denied Kane Penn before springing up and thwarting James Hull.
A spirited and very encouraging Burgess Hill performance but they just fell short of springing a Cupset despite Dan Perry’s 8th & 9th goals of the season.
Next up, it’s straight back to league action on Wednesday night as the Hill travel to Sevenoaks – 7:30pm kick off.