Haywards Heath Town stand between Hastings United FC and a silver coin

But manager Gary Elphick’s message to stay focused on the job at hand won’t change until they can get their hands on it.

A 4-0 ride to East Grinstead last Saturday left United on the brink of promotion they would surely have claimed long before now, but for two non-league seasons interrupted by Covid. They are 14 points clear of their closest challengers Ashford with five games to go – so one more win will see them clinch top spot.

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That means Saturday could be a big Pilot Field party – there’s talk of a crowd of 3,000 – but Elphick has a warning for anyone expecting a procession.

Hastings United fans are ready to celebrate / Photo: Scott White

At East Grinstead, goals from Sam Adams, Danny Parish and Sam Hasler put all three points in the bag within 20 minutes. Parish added another in the second half and another clean sheet capped off the day.

Pope and O’Mara keep United on target.

Elphick said: “Even I have to admit it’s in our sights now! It was comfortable at East Grinstead although a brilliant tackle from Craig Stone at 1-0 was vital.

“We scored some of the best goals we’ve scored all season and the boys have been brilliant. We want to win in front of our fantastic fans, but at Haywards Heath we face one of the strongest teams we have faced.

Danny Parish celebrates a goal in the 4-0 win at EG – he scored two / Photo: Scott White

“We lost 2-0 at home and that was probably our darkest moment of the season. We were a bit panicked by how the season was going.

“But to come from that position to where we are now in half a season shows what a great group of human beings we have.

“Haywards Heath will not be a breeze and we will have to be at our best.”

Since losing 3-2 at home to Burgess Hill in January, Hastings have left their rivals behind by winning nine consecutive league games.

And Elphick said it was the consistency of the whole team that carried them on such a run. “We have so many players that you can count on for a 7/10 performance every time. It’s impossible to tell people apart because it was a whole team effort.

The only selection doubt for tomorrow is defender Stone, who has an abscess in his mouth.

Get news of Hastings’ fate tomorrow at sussexworld.co.uk/sport

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