Light showers left the pitch with a slick passing surface, ideally suited to the Amber’s passing game. The opening quarter was an even affair with neither side finding a finish worthy of a goal. For Hastings, centre forward Femi Akinwande out paced the Ambers defence but then shot weakly into keeper Joe Rose’s arms, for the Ambers James Meehan set Bobby Unwin for a shot, but too close to the keeper to cause problems. A Hastings free kick was well defended, and a George Morrall header went wide.
The 900+ crowd started to buzz when the dangerous Akinwande again burst through the Ambers defence, shooting early & beating Rose but not the goalpost, Rose was alert to the second ball & blocked the follow up. Moments later James Meehan showed the crowd how to finish, when the Ambers press won the ball back in the Hastings half, Isiah Noel-Williams played a pass into the inside left channel & Meehan took a touch to the right & buried it into the far corner for the lead.
James Meehan strikes. Photo Copyright https://amyevephotography.smugmug.com/
Hastings came back strongly in front of their home crowd & put the Ambers defence under pressure, Harlain Mbayo & Fin Titchmarsh making league debuts were kept busy & the latter was unlucky to mistime a tackle stretching in the box when the tricky Davide Rodari back heeled a ball into the path of John Ufua to concede a penalty on the stroke of half time. Akinwande despatched the spot kick to send the teams to the break level at 1-1.
Cheshunt’s fast pass & move football left the Hastings midfield chasing shadows at times, the always available Nathaniel Orafu moving Cheshunt forward, giving Bobby Unwin opportunities to cut back first for James Meehan & then substitute Marcus Sablier, former Dulwich keeper Charlie Grainger well positioned to make the saves, looking a lot more comfortable with the ball on the floor than in the air where a series of mis timed flaps suggested the Ambers might profit from the second ball in the area.
Some of the decision making felt a little harsh at times during the second half, whereas the first half had been good. Offering the home side the drop ball on the edge of the Cheshunt area after a head injury stoppage when in similar circumstances at the other end of the pitch the ball was dropped to the home keeper? & a firm shout for a penalty waved away after the energy of Isiah Noel-Williams drove the home defence into hasty retreat leading to a handball, were the two in particular that got the away support muttering.
Nathaniel Orafu advances. Photo Copyright https://amyevephotography.smugmug.com/
The Ambers new attacking instincts continued to see them pressing for the three points, forcing several corners in the latter stages & mixing up the deliveries to keep Hastings guessing. A George Morrall, Jamie Reynolds switch produced a cross that beat everyone as it curled across the box, with Harlain Mbayo only just missing out on an open goal at the far post.
A sound opening match with attractive football & plenty of positives. League debuts for eight players in a new look Cheshunt and two home games versus Billericay & Chatham this week to enjoy