Hastings hold on for uncomfortable win
Hastings United's footballers just about clung on for victory in a game which they should've won easily tonight (Tuesday).
United were in the end relieved to clinch a 3-2 success at home to second-bottom Three Bridges in Ryman Football League Division One South having been 3-0 up and seemingly cruising half-an-hour from time.
This was a game United could ill-afford not to win, particularly having picked up just one point from their previous two outings, and they gave debuts to new signings Jerrome Sobers and Adam Green in defence, and welcomed back Callum Emptage and Richard Davies from suspension.
There wasn't much between the sides during the opening quarter. Simon Johnson had a left-foot shot half saved by Bridges goalkeeper Kieron Thorp, whose opposite number Lenny Pidgeley then made a fine stop low to his left as Maxine Agboly's angled effort seemed to be heading for the bottom corner.
United gradually got on top and made the breakthrough after 25 minutes. Matt Bodkin found Frannie Collin from a quickly taken free kick and he in turn slipped the ball through to Johnson, who squared for Kiernan Hughes-Mason to turn home with the aid of a deflection.
Hughes-Mason shot wide with just Thorp to beat moments later and United doubled their lead with a very simple goal in the 38th minute. Johnson found Collin in acres of space inside the area and the forward had plenty of time to pick his spot.
Five minutes into the second half, United were three-up. A neat move involving Sam Cruttwell and Jordan Robins ended with Collin's half hit shot dribbling into the bottom corner - seemingly in slow motion - past a wrong-footed Thorp.
Game over, well so it appeared anyway. United used all three of their permitted substitutes in the space of five minutes just after the hour, one of them for the injured Cruttwell, and things unravelled rather alarmingly thereafter.
Bridges got one back in the 65th minute when Drew Cooney was allowed to bring the ball down on his thigh from a Steve Sargent corner and poke home what you thought would be a consolation.
Pidgeley then tipped over Hakeem Adelakun's free kick before Bridges got back to 3-2 in the 80th minute. Tony Garrod blazed over with just Pidgeley to beat, but the referee deemed he'd been fouled by Steve Watt in the act of shooting and awarded a penalty which Adelakun coolly tucked away.
All of a sudden things had become rather edgy inside a very quiet Pilot Field and things got worse for United in the 85th minute when Davies hobbled off injured, leaving them with 10 men for the rest of the game.
Bridges had a glorious chance to complete the most unlikely of comebacks when Garrod went clean through on goal, but Pidgeley came to United's rescue with a vital save. Moments later at the other end, Thorp pulled off a fine stop at his near post from Hughes-Mason.
United had six minutes of added time to endure and there were a couple of anxious moments along the way. Kieran Allen-Djilali volleyed home Sargent's free kick at the near post only to be denied by the offside flag, while Adelakun's curling shot from 30 yards was only just wide.
United: Pidgeley, Butcher, Green, Cruttwell (Davies 61), Sobers (Watt 65), Emptage, Bodkin, Johnson, Hughes-Mason, Collin, Robins (Cogan 61). Subs not used: Dullaway, Nicholls. Attendance: 240.
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