It was a warm and dry Tuesday night when I ventured down to Hythe’s ground, to see their Isthmian League (South East) fixture with Hastings United.
As with South coast rivals, Ramsgate, last Saturday, I had a warm welcome and the club shop (entrance within the stand below) is really impressive. Within 5 minutes of being in I had bought badges for my father’s collection and a set of Birmingham City memorabilia! Everyone here as usual in the non league world is a volunteer and they all work to keep their community clubs alive and because they are true fans. It’s a spirit you see glimmers of in the league clubs but seems to be lost in the world of the big spending/ Business first culture of the Premier League. (I had included something about values in here but I will leave it out!)
Hythe had written out just this week explaining they had lost an investor and needed financial support. The entrance price was just £10 and I bought the informative club programme for £2.
Hythe, managed by Steve Watts, have been regulars in the Isthmian South East Division for some time now. Their home ground, Reachfields Stadium, is sited near the army firing range in Hythe and holds 3000, with 350 seated and a large amount of covered standing. The pitch is grass and with a decent crowd in tonight there was a good atmosphere even before kick off.
Hastings United are managed by Chris Agutter and have benefited from investment and great performances in recent seasons which has led to them developing a decent fan base and following. Sadly for Hastings the two curtailed seasons have prevented their probable promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division. This season they sit in 10th place, but have two or three games in hand on most sides above them.
The first half was hard fought before the 225 crowd, with Hythe Town having the balance of possession. Neither team could capitalise on the chances they created and it looked as if they would go into the break even.
Then on 45 minutes the ball was hit into the area and a Hythe defender launched himself at the ball falling mid air and handling the ball in his penalty area. The referee pointed to the spot and this led to a huge altercation between players and officials. When it calmed, a Hythe player was booked and then Sam Hasler despatched the penalty to send Hastings United into the break 0-1 up.
The second half opened with heavy Hythe Town pressure, as they pushed for an equaliser. Despite creating a range of openings, as the game moved into the last quarter, it remained 0-1 and you sensed that Hythe would regret their wasted chances.
On 78 minutes Hastings United repeated the story of the first half, as they broke away and scored against the run of play, through Sam Adams, who finished with a well placed shot, to make it 0-2.
A minute later Hastings United broke again and Kenny Pogue lobbed the keeper to make it 0-3 and seal a certain victory, for the away team.
This was a score line that didn’t fully reflect the closeness of the on pitch battle. The ground was impressive and the atmosphere was fuelled by the vocal away fans. A thoroughly enjoyable fixture and to add to the excitement I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend at the game too!