Report: Hastings Utd 1-0 Whyteleafe
Whyteleafe's bright start to the new League campaign hit the buffers with a narrow defeat beside the East Sussex coast.
The visitors' fluid passing style contrasted visibly against the very direct long-ball style of their hosts and lead to frustration and disappointment in equal measure.
Hastings dominated the opening 15 minutes with a succession of corners in a sustained spell of pressure, requiring the giant Leafe centre-backs Nathan Campbell and Ricardo Thompson to dominate in the air.
Whyteleafe's muscular number 9 Ronald Sobowale was closely marked throughout and as his side's passing game finally emerged, dominating the next phase of the half, with play-maker Emmanuel Mensah busy in midfield, chances were still few and far between. Corey Holder came closest, heading over in the 21st minute.
The home side took the lead in the 34th minute when another speculative punt upfield, ably assisted by a surprisingly fierce following wind, was met by Ben Pope who struck a masterful lob over Leafe keeper Tyler McCarthy from 20 yards.
The Leafe rallied and in particular Corie Andrews excelled down the right-hand side, his 40th-minute cross met by a Sobowale header, comfortably gathered by home keeper Louis Rogers.
Moments later Antonio Walker-Bath crossed from the other flank and Rogers was less assured, grateful to see the loose ball from his fumble cleared away by an alert Craig Stone.
After the break, Hastings again dominated the early play, the best chance falling to Pope once more, his powerful strike hitting the side netting.
In reply, Sobowale found himself one-on-one with keeper Rogers, who dived bravely at his feet to block the shot.
From here, Whyteleafe again played most of the football, but the home side's defence held a very high and tight line, meaning frequent offsides and increasingly frustrated Leafe players, whose dominance in possession lead to very few clear cut chances.
In the 81st minute, Sobowale turned provider, his deep cross just eluding substitute Junior Aikhionbare's head and indeed the Hastings keeper and defence as it flashed across the goal area.
The frustration boiled over in time added on when fellow substitute Martin Sontan was dismissed for a late and rash tackle to complete a rather miserable and fruitless afternoon from a Leafe perspective.
Leafe: McCarthy, Olorunnisomo, O'Donoghue, Campbell, Thompson (Graham 52), Holder, Andrews (Aikhionbare 76), Mensah, Sobowale, Clarke (Sontan 80), Walker-Bath. Subs not used: Malcolm, Daley