Hastings United Football Club suffered only its second home league defeat since October with a 3-2 loss against Hythe Town today (Saturday).
Chris Agutter’s side couldn’t quite salvage a draw from an eventful Bostik League Division One South match in which Hastings trailed 2-0 and 3-1.
Hastings’ cause was helped by being awarded two dubious-looking penalties, one of which they converted, while Hythe had a player sent-off during a chaotic finish to the match.
Hythe also had five other players booked and Hastings picked up three yellow cards during the course of a game which contained more than 10 minutes of second half added time.
On a gloriously sunny afternoon at The Pilot Field and with the pitch looking in splendid condition, Hastings suffered a blow when captain Sam Adams, playing against the club he started the season with, hobbled off in only the 13th minute having jarred his knee early on.
By that stage Hastings were already behind. Ryan Palmer gave Hythe a ninth minute lead with a well-struck drive into the bottom corner from just outside the D.
Hastings responded well to that goal and could consider themselves unfortunate to be trailing at the break having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, territory and attempts at goal.
Their best chance of the opening period came in the 40th minute. Jack Dixon seemed certain to score as he headed Sam Beale’s cross, but Hythe goalkeeper Will Godmon pulled off a terrific save and Dayshonne Golding’s follow-up went whiskers wide.
Hastings’ other efforts during the first half either failed to hit the target or didn’t overly extend the goalkeeper.
Godmon comfortably gathered Sam Cruttwell’s low free kick, held Golding’s left-footed shot following a lovely pass by Calum Davies and then clutched Davide Rodari’s shot at the end of a solo run, all in space of three minutes.
Prior to all that, Rodari fired wide of the far post from outside the box having cut in from the left, Golding headed over the top from Dixon’s free kick to the near post and Cruttwell’s goalbound shot from Rodari’s cross deflected behind off Hythe full-back Henry Arnold.
At the other end, Zak Ansah couldn’t direct his close range effort on target while stretching to get on the end of Palmer’s dangerous ball across goal having previously seen a low shot on the turn comfortably gathered by home goalkeeper Charlie Horlock.
Hastings were unable to dictate the play in the second half the same way they had for much of the first, although Davies was only denied by a last ditch defensive intervention having controlled Golding’s cross and turned in one motion.
Hythe doubled their advantage through a superb goal in the 67th minute. Darren Oldaker struck a tremendous 25-yard free kick over Hastings’ defensive wall and into the corner of the net.
Three minutes later Horlock produced a smart save low to his right from an angled shot by Ansah, who had dispossessed Cruttwell 30 yards from his own goal.
The game seemed to be slipping away from Hastings until from nowhere really they pulled a goal back in the 76th minute. After Sinnkaye Christie brought the ball out of defence, Beale’s hanging cross from the left to the far post was headed back across Godmon and into the net by Dixon.
Hastings were suddenly back in it and they almost levelled three minutes later when Davies’s shot on the turn following Cruttwell’s long throw was well saved.
They were handed a golden opportunity to make it 2-2 in the 82nd minute. The referee awarded Hastings what appeared the softest of penalties when he deemed Palmer to have fouled Golding, but Dixon blazed the spot-kick over the top and justice seemed to be done.
Instead of it being 2-2, Hythe went 3-1 up with a goal on the break in the 87th minute. Oldaker, in acres of space on the left, squared for Ansah to pick out the top corner with a fine finish.
You thought that would be that, but after Beale missed the target from a tight angle and Dixon headed wide, Hastings were awarded a second penalty. This time the referee spotted an infringement at a Dixon corner and Golding rolled home the spot-kick in the 96th minute.
Play continued for a further five minutes, during which time Arnold was sent-off for throwing the ball at Golding as they squabbled over the length of time it took Arnold to take a throw-in.
There was one last half chance for Hastings right at the end as Rowe’s header from a Dixon corner was held by Godmon.
Hastings: Horlock, Rowe, Beale, Lovatt, Christie, Cruttwell, Rodari, Adams (Janneh 13), Davies, Dixon, Golding. Subs not used: Climpson, Taggart, Plummer, Kieran. Attendance: 423.
Bostik League Division One South top half (played-points): 1 Lewes 33-71, 2 Cray Wanderers 35-69, 3 Corinthian-Casuals 35-69, 4 Carshalton Athletic 33-68, 5 Walton Casuals 34-66, 6 Greenwich Borough 34-64, 7 Hythe Town 35-59, 8 Whyteleafe 35-56, 9 HASTINGS UNITED 35-52, 10 Phoenix Sports 35-51, 11 Thamesmead Town 34-49, 12 Horsham 35-48.
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