Hastings United’s footballers came from behind to pull off a vital victory in their battle to avoid relegation this afternoon (Saturday).
A free kick and penalty from Sam Adams gave the U’s a splendid 2-1 win at home to third-placed Faversham Town in Ryman Football League Division One South.
With Ramsgate winning 5-3 at Horsham and East Grinstead Town losing 2-0 at home to Tooting & Mitcham United, Hastings are two points and two places above the three relegation positions with one game to go.
And given that their goal difference is vastly better than that of third-bottom Grinstead, a draw or better in their final fixture away to Walton & Hersham next weekend will be enough to keep United up.
A big crowd of 900 people took advantage of free admission for United’s final home match of the campaign, and they watched the U’s have the better of the play and certainly the chances during the first half.
Ultimately the opening 45 minutes was a tale of two stunning free kicks. Faversham captain Wayne Wilson gave his team a 13th minute lead with a spectacular 30-yard effort into the roof of the net.
But United replied in kind 19 minutes later, Adams scoring an equally brilliant goal by clipping the ball over the defensive wall and into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Aside from the goals, Marlon Patterson blazed over Faversham’s crossbar from Tyrell Richardson-Brown’s low ball across goal after just five minutes. United captain Sean Ray later seemed certain to score his first goal of the season when he met Adams’ corner with a side-foot volley only for goalkeeper Robert French to save superbly and then cling on to the ball in the resulting melee.
The first half on a sunny but breezy afternoon - and the wind was definitely a factor - at The Pilot Field ended 1-1, which meant that United have gone the entire season without leading a home league game at the break.
They grabbed the winner, however, within eight minutes of the restart. Fraser Logan’s cross from the left struck the arm of Faversham defender John Scarborough and Adams stepped up to confidently drill home the resulting penalty.
Although he has missed more games than he’s played lately, Adams has played a key role in United’s survival bid. He scored the winner in both matches against Ramsgate and is the club’s leading scorer with 13 in all competitions.
Faversham responded strongly to going behind and came agonisingly close to a 57th minute equaliser. Home goalkeeper Josh Pelling produced a fine save to divert Charley Robertson’s shot onto the post and the ball then rolled virtually right across the goal-line.
United had a great chance to effectively wrap the game up shortly before the 80-minute mark. Richardson-Brown played an excellent pass to put Adams through on goal, but French whipped the ball off his toes as Adams sought to round him.
Faversham had a lot of the play, yet United were very resolute in defence and restricted them to few clear opportunities. Stuart King headed over from Wilson’s free kick and in added time a Wilson shot from just outside the box bounced wide.
No team in the division has scored more goals than Faversham’s tremendous haul of 106 and only champions Burgess Hill Town have won more matches. United are now the only side to have beaten Faversham twice.
United: Pelling, Hanifan, Cruttwell, Bankole, Ray, Jirbandey, Brinkhurst, Logan, Richardson-Brown, Adams (T. Olorunda 90+4), Patterson. Subs not used: Turner, Foster, Maclean, Willett. Attendance: 900.
Ryman Division One South bottom five (all played 45 matches): 20 HASTINGS UNITED 47 (-13 goal difference), 21 Ramsgate 47 (-25), 22 East Grinstead Town 45 (-38), 23 Redhill 38 (-34), 24 Horsham 36 (-52).