Hastings United Football Club’s run of five consecutive wins and clean sheets came to a surprise end this afternoon (Saturday).
United were ahead twice, but were in the end held to a 2-2 draw at home to third-bottom Chatham Town in Ryman Football League Division One South.
They do at least continue to occupy the final play-off place of fifth, however, and their unbeaten run now stands at eight matches.
United seemed to be picking up where they left off from Tuesday night’s 5-0 thrashing of Carshalton Athletic as they came flying out of the blocks on a grey and breezy afternoon.
They came close following a Frannie Collin corner before Matt Bodkin and Bradley Stevenson had efforts well saved by Chatham goalkeeper Alex Hyde, all in the opening four minutes.
It came as no real surprise when United drew first blood in the 17th minute. Stevenson slipped the ball through for Collin to slot past Hyde in typically clinical fashion.
United came close to doubling their advantage when Kiernan Hughes-Mason’s well-struck far post volley from Bodkin’s cross was blocked near the line and when Ollie Rowe’s firm header from the resulting Collin corner was saved by the legs of Hyde.
Chatham also had their moments in a very open and watchable first half, though, and were whiskers away from an equaliser when Cameron Hefferman struck the inside of the far post with a terrific effort from the left-hand side of the box.
Hughes-Mason brought a fine save out of Hyde low to his right and Sam Cruttwell’s shot from the ensuing Collin corner was blocked on the line before Hughes-Mason blazed the follow-up off target. Pidgeley then saved Kyron Lightfoot’s shot low to his left at the other end.
United ought really to have been a couple of goals ahead, but Chatham levelled things up in the 39th minute. Ryan Flack’s diagonal ball from the Chatham left drifted over Johnny Akoto and Justin Ascheri lifted a neat finish over Pidgeley for the first goal United had conceded in more than 500 minutes.
United hit the front again in the fourth minute of a second half which contained far less goalmouth incident than the first - and a cracking goal it was too. Collin struck a trademark 25-yard free kick over the wall and into the top corner via the fingertips of the diving Hyde.
Hyde pulled off a fine reflex save to keep out Bodkin’s shot following another Collin corner and it seemed as though United were just about doing enough until Chatham equalised for a second time in the 76th minute.
Visiting forward Ricky Freeman got to a long ball over the top just before the outrushing Pidgeley and poked it past United’s goalkeeper, the ball having just enough pace on it to cross the line despite the best efforts of the backtracking Rowe.
United failed to fashion a genuine chance thereafter as frustration grew and things might have got worse had it not been for a good save by Pidgeley to repel an 89th minute header from Freeman Rogers.
United: Pidgeley, Emptage, Akoto, Evans, Cruttwell, Rowe, Bodkin, Johnson, Stevenson (Stannard 72), Collin, Hughes-Mason (Harris 80). Subs not used: Sobers, Climpson, Nicholls. Attendance: 398.
Ryman Division One South top 10 (played-points): 1 Tooting & Mitcham United 36-83 (+58 goal difference), 2 Dorking Wanderers 36-80 (+48), 3 Greenwich Borough 35-69 (+31), 4 Carshalton Athletic 37-67 (+31), 5 HASTINGS UNITED 35-65 (+54), 6 Hythe Town 35-65 (+24), 7 Lewes 36-64 (+9), 8 Corinthian-Casuals 35-63 (+16), 9 Cray Wanderers 35-57 (+8), 10 Walton Casuals 37-57 (+5).
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