Hastings United Football Club had two players sent-off during its first home draw of the season.
Chris Agutter’s side played the final half-an-hour of today’s (Saturday’s) 1-1 draw against Guernsey in the Bostik League South East Division with nine men after two red cards in quick succession.
But there was still a sense of disappointment afterwards at Hastings not picking up an 11th home league win of the season seeing as they fashioned the vast majority of the chances.
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The Pilot Field pitch was covered in a layer of snow early in the morning, but the hard work of groundsman Simon Rudkins, aided by the sun, meant the surface was completely clear by the 1pm kick-off.
Hastings restored captain Sam Adams to the starting line-up, with Tom Climpson dropping to the substitutes’ bench. Jamie Fielding came in for the injured Lanre Azeez at right wing-back.
The home side opened the scoring in only the fourth minute. After Ollie Black’s long throw from the right, Temi Eweka’s shot was blocked and Daniel Ajakaiye drove a low shot into the net from around eight yards.
Hastings looked in full control for the next 10 minutes or so, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and winning the ball quickly when they didn’t have it. Jordy Mongoy had a chance to double the lead, but turned Ajakaiye’s cross from the left wide of the near post.
Guernsey, wearing an all purple change kit, started to come into the contest approaching the 15-minute mark and the play became more even, although just about all the attempts at goal were coming from Hastings.
Jack Dixon had a bouncing shot from distance well held by away goalkeeper Callum Stanton and flashed a powerful left-footed shot narrowly wide, Mongoy’s effort from the edge of the area deflected over and Fielding shot well off target following Mongoy’s cross from the left.
Guernsey levelled with their first genuine attempt at the goal (other than a free kick into the wall). Matt Loaring sent Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock the wrong way from the penalty spot after a clear foul by Sam Cruttwell on the Paris Pereira towards the side of the box.
Although Carlos Canha drove just over Hastings’ crossbar from outside the box, Hastings responded to the goal fairly well. Ajakaiye had a shot saved by Stanton at the end of an incredible solo run and Mongoy fired just wide of the near post from Fielding’s inside pass.
Hastings remained on the front foot at the start of the second half and Mongoy shot wide from a good position inside the box within 20 seconds of the kick-off.
They then had a great chance to go back in front. After Eweka’s shot following another Black long throw was blocked, the ball dropped to Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, whose effort from just outside the six-yard box was saved by the feet of Stanton.
Black was shown a second yellow card in the 57th minute for a foul on Pereira and five minutes later Dixon received a straight red for a foul Liam Mahon. Guernsey’s Thomas Dodds was booked for his part in the melee which followed.
Although two players down, Hastings still set up positively, with Ajakaiye, Mongoy and Adams all in advanced positions, and continued to take the game to Guernsey, showing admirable commitment and endeavour.
The impressive Cruttwell went whiskers wide with a 30-yard free kick and then delivered a cross from the right which Howlett-Mundle blazed over from eight yards.
Ajakaiye - the match sponsor’s man of the match and deservedly so - shot just wide of the far post from outside the area, via a slight deflection.
You certainly wouldn’t have known Guernsey had a numerical advantage and only in added time, when Horlock made a good save from Keanu Marsh’s angled strike, did they threaten a winner.
The result meant Hastings dropped a place to third in the table, behind Ashford United on goal difference.
Hastings: Horlock; Eweka, Howlett-Mundle, Cruttwell (Climpson 85); Fielding, Lovatt, Dixon, Adams, Black; Ajakaiye (Curran 90+3), Mongoy (Bamba 74). Subs not used: Walker, Page. Attendance: 368.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 23-58 (+33 goal difference), 2 Ashford United 23-45 (+27), 3 HASTINGS UNITED 23-45 (+22), 4 Horsham 22-41 (+14), 5 Whyteleafe 22-38 (+17), 6 Haywards Heath Town 22-36 (+9), 7 Hythe Town 23-36 (+6), 8 VCD Athletic 22-35 (+2), 9 Ramsgate 23-30 (+2), 10 Phoenix Sports 22-29 (0).