Chris Agutter HERO

Agutter backing local lads to seal Final spot

Littlehampton Town vs. Hastings United

The second semi-final of the Sussex Transport Senior Cup is set to be played on Tuesday 12 March 2024 between Littlehampton Town and Hastings United.

Littlehampton Town vs. Hastings United
Sussex Transport Senior Cup Semi-Final
Date: Tuesday 12 March 2024
Kick-off: 7:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9AX

For Hastings United, it’s been a somewhat turbulent season, with former manager Chris Agutter returning to dugout following the departure of Paul Barnes back in October.

Yet, despite this, a Sussex Transport Senior Cup Semi-Final clash against Littlehampton Town awaits next week.

However, even on the pitch, the road to this point in the competition was hardly a smooth one.

“Under Paul [Barnes] we did well to come out of our tie against Three Bridges with a 4-3 win,” said Agutter, “and then since I’ve come in, we’ve just had the boring games!

Crawley Down Gatwick in the Third Round was one of those games where, if we didn’t get an early goal, they’d look to sit deep for the duration, which proved to be the case.

“So, after winning on penalties against them, our Quarter-Final clash against Eastbourne Borough proved a similar story, just with atrocious conditions being the key factor in that one.

“But again, the boys held their nerve from 12-yards, and on the balance of play from both games, I’d say we deserve this spot in the Semi-Final.”

Of course, for Agutter the fact that, after only five months back at the helm his side are both on the cusp of a place in a final, and still chasing down a play-off spot, is testament to the hard work the team have put in, considering the situation at the club when he took over.

“When I arrived, I was told that the expectations were very much to stay up, with us only five points off the relegation zone,” said Agutter.

“For me, the issues lay in the fact that at the start of the season, the club had started to drift away from local people, and that connection we’d built when I was first at the club, was starting to break.

“So, with that in mind, the idea was that, in the summer, we’d look to start rebuilding and start to get that relationship back on track by bringing in more players from the local area who could be the difference for us.

“But as it stands, we’re way ahead of schedule and the season has definitely gone far better than I expected, with both the Senior Cup and the League.”

With this remarkable uptake in form clear for all to see, what would Agutter put the turnaround down to?

“It’s been a combination of factors, but what’s really helped has been putting faith back in some of the younger local lads who had been overlooked a bit in the summer, and just giving them a platform to go out and perform for the club,” said Agutter.

“The consequence of that has been that supporters can then see local, homegrown players coming through, and they know they’re Hastings based, and that’s only going to help grow that connection between the sidelines and the pitch.

“When supporters have that connection and know that the players will be fighting for the shirt, win, lose or draw, they get behind them more, which has really helped us get over the line, especially in these cup games.

“They’re like a 12th man for us, and in so many games this season they’ve made away games feel like we’re playing back at the Pilot Field.”

With the supporters well and truly connecting with the team once again, the performances of certain players has certainly come to reflect that in Agutter’s eyes.

“Players such as Adam Lovatt and Davide Rodari have really kicked on another gear these last few months,” said Agutter, “they’ve come through the academy when they were only 18-years-old, and have gone away and played professional football, but for one reason or another it hasn’t worked out.

“But they’ve had a chance to come back, and they’re now almost the senior statesmen in the team, even though they’re still in their twenties.

“So, if we’re going to stand a chance at progressing both in the league and this competition, we’ll need them to continue putting in the high level of performances they’ve been putting in.”

To reach the final, many of Agutter’s players will have to park memories of last year's Semi-Final, in which they went out on penalties to eventual winners, Worthing.

“It’s an opportunity to get to a cup final, and at this time of the season the majority of teams aren’t playing for anything, so for us it’s just an exciting time,” he said.

“So, we’ll just look to prepare for the game as best we can and, like with every game, give our all to go that one step further this year.”

Standing in their way to a spot in the Final though are Littlehampton Town, a side that Agutter is far from underestimating.

“We’ve watched a few of their games, and the fact that they beat Bognor Regis Town in the previous round, who are one of the stronger teams in our league, and the way that they beat them, shows how difficult a game it’ll be.

“Littlehampton would probably finish mid-table in our league, so for us we’ll be treating them with respect, knowing just how dangerous they can be, especially going forward.

“So, I’ll be telling the players that, even though we’re a league above, it’s going to be a real tough test, but if we play the way we’ve been playing, I have every confidence we can make it to the Final!”

Entry prices are as follows (Cash and Card accepted):

£12.00 Adult (17+)
£8.00 Concession (66+ and students with valid student ID card)
£3.00 Child (16 and under)
Official Match Day Programme will be available online

For further details about the Sussex Transport Senior Cup please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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