Hastings United ended their 2017/18 Bostik Football League Division One South season with a home defeat.
Chris Agutter’s side was beaten 2-1 by Sittingbourne at The Pilot Field on Saturday, ending its eight-match unbeaten run.
The result also meant Hastings dropped a place to ninth because Whyteleafe overtook them on goals scored following their 5-2 win away to Horsham.
Whyteleafe and Hastings, incidentally, both ended with 20 wins, 13 draws and 13 defeats, and a goal difference of +17. The only difference was Whyteleafe scoring 87 goals to Hastings’ 84.
Hastings made three changes to their starting line-up from the previous Tuesday’s 2-0 win at home to South Park. Louis Rogers was given an opportunity in goal with regular number one Charlie Horlock carrying a knock, and with Adam Lovatt injured and Jack Dixon suspended, Tom Climpson and Dayshonne Golding returned to the XI.
Hastings didn’t start the match particularly well and Sittingbourne took an eighth minute lead. A loose ball wasn’t cleared and Dan Parkinson turned it home at the far post.
From that moment onwards Hastings controlled the play and fashioned a number of opportunities, but Sittingbourne goalkeeper Harry Brooks had a good game and an equaliser proved elusive.
Brooks tipped a Davide Rodari shot around the post and Rodari then blasted over. After Tyrone Guthrie fired over from six yards for Sittingbourne, Sonny Dullaway slipped in the act of shooting at the other end and Antonio Walker drive narrowly wide from just outside the box.
In added time at the end of the first half, Rodari was foiled by Brooks from close range and the away goalkeeper then produced a terrific save from a Sam Adams shot.
Into the second period and Rogers thwarted David Smith from close range before Sam Cruttwell forced a good stop from Brooks at the other end. Rodari and then Golding were then denied in the Sittingbourne area.
Sittingbourne went close to a second when Smith shot wide and they did double their lead in the 80th minute. Hastings failed to clear during a chaotic few seconds in their penalty box and Fabrice Blewordah slid the ball past Rogers.
Hastings didn’t give up and pulled one back in the 90th minute when Ansu Janneh, who had only been on the pitch seven minutes, headed home from a corner.
The home side almost pulled off a dramatic late rescue act as 14th-placed Sittingbourne needed a goal-line clearance in added time to hold on for their third win in four games.
Although neither team had a huge amount to play for, both played the match as if it was a play-off final and a couple of melees reflected the widespread desire to end the campaign on a high.
On the whole it was a pretty good performance from Hastings, but they struggled to put the ball in the net in front of their largest crowd for a home fixture since the visit of Lewes in August. Some 540 people - nearly 200 more than average - took advantage of the club’s admission offer.
Hastings: Rogers, Rowe, Beale, Cruttwell, Christie, Climpson, Rodari, Golding (Taggart 74), Adams, Dullaway (Janneh 83), Walker (Fielding 90). Subs not used: Pritchard, Horlock. Attendance: 540.
Bostik League Division One South top half final standings (all played 46 matches): 1 Carshalton Athletic 102pts, 2 Lewes 99, 3 Cray Wanderers 89, 4 Greenwich Borough 87, 5 Corinthian-Casuals 87, 6 Walton Casuals 86, 7 Hythe Town 86, 8 Whyteleafe 73, 9 HASTINGS UNITED 73, 10 Thamesmead Town 72, 11 Phoenix Sports 69, 12 Herne Bay 68.
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