Hastings United Legends – 3
Manchester United Legends – 2
Chris Casper scores from the penalty spot to make it 3-2
Footballing heroes from yesteryear laced up their boots again for a charity match to help raise funds for St Michael’s Hospice writes Rob Griffin.
Stars from Hastings United’s past took on legendary names from Manchester United at the Pilot Field in Elphinstone Road.
And the 2,500-strong crowd packed into the picturesque ground were treated to a gripping five goal thriller, with the result being in doubt until the final whistle.
It was the second ‘legends’ event hosted by Hastings – following the 5-2 defeat of Tottenham’s old boys last year – and featured an impressive line-up of names.
The years may have slowed their pace – and, in some cases, slightly enlarged their waistlines – but there was more than enough skill on both sides to keep everyone entertained.
The visitors’ team sheet included striker Frank Stapleton, who joined United from Arsenal in the early 1980s, as well as fellow hit man, Sammy Mcllroy.
Adding some fire on the right wing was Keith Gillespie, who played for United during the early 1990s, before turning out for Newcastle, Blackburn and Leicester, among others.
The home squad included ex Fulham and Brighton player Paul Watson, and Paul Smith, who signed for Nottingham Forest in the mid-1990s.
Ahead of kick-off there was a minute’s silence to remember former Hastings player Charlie Slocombe, who died from a cardiac arrest while playing six-a-side.
Writing in the matchday programme, Terry White, the manager of the Hastings Legends, was full of praise for the 25-year-old.
“He was a great lad on and off the pitch, just the sort of player you want as a manager,” he wrote. “He had good ability and would give you his all every time that he crossed the line.”
White also paid tribute to Cyril Jeans, who also recently passed away at the age of 79. Jeans had been a player and manager for Hastings back in the early 1970s.
“He was a great player and manager, and an even better person away from the pitch,” he wrote. “His passion and knowledge for the game was well before his time.”
After a tentative start from both sides, the deadlock was finally broken in the 27th minute with Paul Watson drilling in for Hastings from just outside the six yard box.
Four minutes later the home side doubled their lead when the ball was whipped in and Ade Olorunda converted at the back post.
That’s how it stayed until nine minutes into the second half when Stafford Browne collected a through ball and calmly rounded goalkeeper Nick Culkin for number three.
However, the visitors weren’t finished. On 70 minutes, Frank Stapleton slipped inside the defence and beautifully struck into the top corner to make it 3-1.
And two minutes later they were right back into the game with Chris Casper confidently slotting home a penalty that made it 3-2.
Both sides had chances in the final minutes. Stapleton had an effort saved, while Liam Barham came close to scoring for Hastings with his shot hitting the crossbar.
However, a thoroughly entertaining afternoon came to an end with the home side running out 3-2 winners and getting to lift the trophy.