Hastings United vs Cray Wanderers – Isthmian Premier, Saturday 18th February, 3 pm – Match Preview

Pics:  Jon Hilliger (www.hilligerpix.com)/ Ozay Booth

BROMLEY, GREATER LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Cray Wanderers’s Sam Wood takes a shot from the edge of the area during The Pitching In Isthmian Premier League match between Cray Wanderers and Hastings United at Hayes Lane on September 21, 2022 in Bromley, Greater London, England . (Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

Cray Wanderers are back on the road on Saturday 18th February following back to back home matches as 5th placed Wands visit 8th placed Hastings United.  Kick off 3pm at Pilot Field.

Cray returned to 5th place on Wednesday night after a hard fought goalless draw with Folkestone Invicta in what was the Wands’ twelfth draw of the season and after picking up four points from the two matches have 51 points from 31 games played.

The Wands came close to picking up three points in the second half with Dan Bassett hitting the bar and firing just over and through Yahaya Bamba but perhaps the main positive was another resolute performance from a very young back four with Jalen Jones and Freddie Carter in the middle excellent for the last three games, the two full backs, Jephte Tanga and Bailey Akehurst impressing.Also Shaun Rowley was possibly most the fans choice for man of the match reached double figures for clean sheets for the season with an assured display.  The Isthmian Premier record for Cray is fifteen clean sheets in the 2010-11 season.

Dan Bassett and Tom Derry both scored last Saturday against Carshalton Athletic and have taken their total of goals to 12 and 10 respectively for the season. 

Neil Smith’s side have perhaps surpassed expectations this season but as the season goes past mid February are very much in the race for promotion in what is turning out to be the tightest Isthmian Premier competition in many years with at least twelve maybe thirteen teams all believing they have a chance of at the very least extending the season by another few days via the playoffs.

BROMLEY, GREATER LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Cray Wanderers’s Danny Bassett holds the ball up on the edge of the area during The Pitching In Isthmian Premier League match between Cray Wanderers and Hastings United at Hayes Lane on September 21, 2022 in Bromley, Greater London, England . (Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

Hastings United are definitely one of those sides in with a shout and after a run of three games without have since won their last three matches against Folkestone Invicta, Corinthian Casuals and on Wednesday night, a professional 3-0 win at Kingstonian with goals from Ryan Worrall, David Smith and Freddie Legg.  Hastings who made their return to the Isthmian Premier for the first time since 2012-13 are eighth in the table on 48 points after 29 games and with 25 goals only Hornchurch have conceded fewer this season.

The match pits the only two sides to win the Isthmian League South crown and when the sides met at Hayes Lane on 21st September United won a rather dour encounter 1-0 with a second half Ben Pope goal.

BROMLEY, GREATER LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Cray Wanderers’s Jalen Jones runs the ball out of defence during The Pitching In Isthmian Premier League match between Cray Wanderers and Hastings United at Hayes Lane on September 21, 2022 in Bromley, Greater London, England . (Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

The last meeting at Pilot Field was in the Wands Isthmian South championship season on 16th March 2019 with Hastings winning 3-2 after Cray went two nil up through Archie Johnson and Joe Taylor but goals from Sam Cruttwell, Davide Rodari and Jack Dixon won the game for the home side but didn’t really make too much of an impact on the ultimate destination of the title.

Gary Elphick’s side have been fairly solid at home this season and have beaten Brightlingsea Regent (4-1), Kingstonian (1-0), Carshalton Athletic (1-0), Haringey Borough (4-1), Corinthian Casuals (3-0), Lewes (2-1) and Folkestone Invicta (2-1) and drawn with Canvey Island (1-1) and Margate (0-0). Their only defeats at home came at the hands of Aveley (1-2), Bishop’s Stortford (0-1), Potters Bar Town (1-2) and Hornchurch (0-3).  Away from home Hastings won at Cray Wanderers (1-0), Wingate & Finchley (4-0), Haringey Borough (3-0), Margate (2-1), Brightlingsea Regent (3-2), Corinthian Casuals (2-0) and Kingstonian (3-0). They drew at Folkestone Invicta, Lewes, Bognor Regis Town, Horsham and were beaten at Hornchurch, Billericay Town, Enfield Town, Aveley and Haringey Borough.  Hastings recently signed on loan striker David Smith who was a prolific marksman for Folkestone Invicta from Bromley to add to a side which shares the goals around. Top scorer so far is Ben Pope with 9 goals.  In the FA Cup, Hastings went out in the 1st Qualifying Round at Cray Valley PM but in the FA Trophy did reach the 2nd Round after beating Met Police and Burgess Hill Town before losing at home to Chippenham Town.

With protracted negotiations with the local council over a possible new stadium for Hastings United and the substantial costs to maintain the iconic Pilot Field this could be the last game to be played there for a while as it has been mooted the club could be groundsharing with Eastbourne Borough next season and like Cray Wanderers have a strong emphasis of promoting youth team football in Sussex and the club like many in the Sussex area have a strong and loyal fan base.

With plenty of points still to play for it is too early to say this is a pivotal game for both sides but certainly could be very competitive and a lively encounter and a tough one to call.  With games like Aveley vs Lewes and Canvey Island v Enfield Town at the weekend, teams are going to taking points off each other and eventually whittling down the contenders as we head towards the last two months of the season.


Address:  Hastings United FC. The Pilot Field, Elphinstone Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 2AX

 Admission Prices:  £12.00 adults, £8.00 concessions, U18s free (accompanied by adult)

By Car –  From our neck of the woods best to go via the A21.

From Orpington take the Hewitts Roundabout and take the 2nd exit onto A21/M25 heading to Sevenoaks/A21 for 0.9 miles. At the roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the M25 slip road to M23/M4/M3/Gatwick Airport/Heathrow Airport/Hastings/Sevenoaks A21 for 0.3 miles. Keep right and merge onto A21/M25 for 4 miles and then continue onto the A21 for 11.8 miles. Continue onto Hastings Road/Pembury Bypass/A21 for 4.1 miles.

At Kippings Cross roundabout take the 2nd exit onto A21 and follow for 3.1 miles and then at Forstal Farm roundabout take the 2nd exit onto Lamberhurst Bypass/A21. After 1.5 miles at the roundabout take the 2nd exit onto A21 for 8.5 miles.  At Northbridge Street roundabout take the 2nd exit onto Robertsbridge Bypass/A21 for 2.1 miles and then at John’s Cross roundabout take the 1st exit onto Vinehall Road/A21 for 5.9 miles. You should then be approaching Hastings.  Take a slight right onto Maplehurst Road for 0.2 miles and then turn left onto the Ridge/A2101 and at the roundabout take the 1st exit onto the Ridge/B2093 for half a mile.  At the roundabout take the 2nd exit to remain on the Ridge/B2093 for 1.2 miles and then turn right into Elphinstone Road and take a left for the ground.

Alternatively as you reach the northern outskirts of the town you will see a sign “Hastings & St Leonards, birthplace of television” on your left having passed Sainsburys on your right, go straight ahead at two mini roundabouts and turn left at the third onto the A2101 St Helens Road (The Pilot Field is signposted at this point). After approximately a mile and a quarter, take the fifth turning on the left into St Helens Park Road, which leads into Downs Road. At the end of this road, turn left and the ground is situated immediately on your right.

From the East on the A259 – Turn right at the traffic lights just past the Aldi supermarket onto the B2093 Old London Road, which leads into The Ridge. After approximately one mile, turn left opposite the main entrance to Hastings Crematorium into Elphinstone Road and the ground is situated down the hill on the left hand side, the second of two adjacent pitches.

Parking – Please note that there is no spectator parking available within the ground itself, but there are plenty of roads within close walking distance that have no parking restrictions. Please be sure to park legally though, as traffic wardens are known to patrol the area on matchdays.

By Public Transport – Bus Routes 21 and 21A from Stand A at Hastings Rail Station.  These run every half hour on a Saturday (04 & 34) and take you to Elphinstone Road.  

It is a fairly long walk from Hastings station, around 1.4 miles so leave yourself plenty of time if you choose this option.  From Station approach, turn left onto Devonshire Road and then after 0.1 miles turn left onto South Terrace and then right into Braybrooke Road.  For 0.2 miles continue to Bethune Way and then at the Queens Road Roundabout take the second exit onto Elphinstone Road, go over one more roundabout and Pilot Field should be on the right after about a mile and uphill.

You can also get there from Ore station (technically nearer) and is about 20 minutes away.  Head down Beaconsfield Road to the roundabout and turn right into Elphinstone Road as above.  

If you are going by train to Hastings and thinking of going from Orpington, on the 18th February there are no direct trains going to Hastings that day. You would need to get a rail replacement bus to Sevenoaks at 15 or 45 mins past the hour to catch a train to Hastings which will take an hour. This is the same for the return journey, Hastings to Sevenoaks and a rail replacement bus back to Orpington. You can get trains to Sevenoaks from Bromley South (23/53 past the hour), St Mary Cray (31/01 past the hour) or Swanley (36/06).
If you wish to go to Ore from Orpington again you would need the rail replacement bus to Sevenoaks, then a train to St Leonards Warrior Square and then another to Ore and for the return.
You can get there from London Bridge direct with trains at 08 & 38 past the hour taking 1 hour 38 minutes past or an hourly service at 57 but will take twenty minutes longer. Returns at 21 or 47 past the hour or an hourly service at 26 minutes past.
There are no direct trains from Victoria. You would need to get the tube to St Pancras International, catch a train to Ashford International and then on to Hastings and would take you quite a while.

For train travel best to check National Rail Enquiries

 – www.nationalrail.co.uk

Hastings is a place steeped in history and in particular the approach to Hastings and the town especially the old town which has many pubs and bars and eateries that must surely satisfy even the most hardest to please of people.  The Dolphin Inn in the Old town (Rock-a-Nore Road) is highly recommended as is the Anchor in George Street.  In All Saints Street is the Crown which is considered to be one of the best pubs in the country. Since our last visit in March 2019 there has been a new addition with the Seadog on Station Road. 

If you plan on staying the night the Carlisle in Pelham Street is well renowned as a live music venue particularly specialising in punk, rock and heavy metal music and traditionally a must for motorbike enthusiasts. There is also the Clown in Russell Street (close to Hastings or Ore Station). There is at the ground, the Elphinstone Social Club if you prefer something quieter.  There are just too many chippies to recommend although the Life Boat Restaurant in the Parade is 4.5 star rated as is Maggie’s Fish Bar in Fishmarket Road.  

Hastings is famous around the world for the Battle of Hastings of 1066 following William the Conqueror and his Norman army invading England and led to a bloody battle in which King Harold was killed by Willam’s army.  Since those days the town has really thrived as a historical location, it was one of the Cinque ports strategically placed to prevent invasions and later as a very large fishing port.  

It might be a touch chilly for the worldwide famous beach but also an aquarium but that is a bit of a hike from the football ground and there are legendary remains of Hastings Castle with its links to 1066.  If you fancy a return maybe in the Spring/Easter time there is the Smugglers Adventure route which starts at Hastings Caves and finishes at the castle.  This route is currently closed for the winter months but due to reopen by the end of the month.