Davide Rodari’s hat-trick helped Hastings United to their second Velocity Trophy Group 4 win of the season, after thrashing Three Bridges 5-2 on Tuesday night.
With neither team at full strength, this game started with a bit of a whimper with Hastings content to play the ball back and forth in their own half.
However, the hosts eventually got going with Oliver Weeks and Tom Chalmers both taking advantage of having lots of room down the flanks.
Sam Adams, Daniel Hull and Kenny Pogue all wasted chances for the home side before they took the lead a minute before half time when Bridges failed to clear a Chalmers pass before James Pool powered in a good low strike from range.
The visitors’ 18-year-old debutant goalkeeper Tom Baxter made a string of good saves including one at the feet of a Hastings forward and a block from point-blank range.
Yet a Baxter mistake two minutes into the second-half proved costly as the U’s went two goals ahead. Coming out to clear a ball over the top, he completely missed his kick and could only watch in horror as Rodari ran the ball into an empty net.
Apart from a couple of good runs and inviting crosses by Reece Price Placid, Bridges threatened little, but they stirred themselves into action with a reply after 59 minutes when John Lansdale’s free kick was sent past Louis Rogers thanks to a deft header by Andre McCollin.
The away side hauled themselves level in the 71st minute, to their own surprise. A great passing move between Brannon O’Neill and McCollin ended in Tom Tolfrey showing his predatory skills with a fine finish.
But, despite plenty of solid defending by Dean Gunner and Tadley Bromage, the last stages of the game proved too much for the weakened visitors. A low drive by Rodari on 79 minutes finishing a good counter attack.
Two minutes later, Chalmers shot across Baxter for the fourth, before Rodari completed his hat-trick in added-time.
A poor ball across the middle of the field to no one in particular led to Rodari, who had already been announced as Hastings’ Man of the Match, slotting in the fifth to inflict Bridges' first loss in the group stage of the reformatted Velocity Trophy.
Three Bridges are in FA Trophy action this Saturday as they travel to Isthmian South East high-flyers Chichester City.
Three Bridges: Baxter, Williams, Douglas (Welch 59'), Gunner, Bromage, Sabek (McCollin 45'), Price-Placid (Berry 57'), Lansdale, Whitehead (Kosia 79'), Tolfrey, O’Neill.