Hastings United Football Club's three-match winning run was ended by a 3-2 loss away to Walton Casuals tonight (Wednesday).
Having only conceded once in their previous three in Ryman Football League Division One South outings, the U’s shipped three times in 13 second half minutes having led 1-0 at the break.
Simon Johnson was still missing due to injury and Bright Temba pulled out during the day. Frannie Collin was on the bench and came on for the final 20 minutes, but United lost Stephen Butcher after 37 minutes with a pulled hamstring.
If ever there was a game of two contrasting halves, this was it. United were the better side in the first half and probably thought they should have had the points in the bag.
But for much of the second period they were on the back foot and looked particularly vulnerable down both flanks.
Hastings started brightly and Matt Bodkin came close after nine minutes with a decent effort from 20 yards which home goalkeeper Denzel George managed to get round the post.
For the Casuals, Malachi Hudson looked dangerous down the left but there were seldom any real threats to Lenny Pidgeley’s goal in the opening 45 minutes apart from a couple of scrambles that were dealt with comfortably.
On 31 minutes Jack Harris brought the best out of George and two minutes later Sam Cruttwell unleashed a piledriver from 25 yards that was pushed away by the goalkeeper. Alex Akrofi got beyond the home defence following a quick counter-attack but fired wide of the target.
United finally got the goal they deserved on 41 minutes when Harry Stannard fired a low shot past George from 20 yards. Right at the end of the half, a Steve Watt header cleared the crossbar by inches.
It was a totally different story after the break with Walton stepping up the pace and causing problems by running at United’s defence and playing with two wide men.
Kiernan Hughes-Mason fired over from close range on 48 minutes and just when it looked as if United had weathered the storm, they conceded on 62 minutes.
Casuals were awarded a free kick just outside the box on the left which was taken by Jordan Cheadle. It looked as if Pidgeley had got the shot covered, but the ball sailed over his outstretched arms and into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Two minutes later the home side took the lead when a quick break down the middle prized open the United defence. Gabriel Odunaike collected and fired a low shot past the onrushing Pidgeley from just inside the area.
Hastings showed signs of making a recovery and Akrofi was just unable to make contact with a great cross from Sam Cole, but minutes later Casuals increased their lead.
Hughes-Mason was suddenly in the clear and his decent strike went through Pidgeley’s legs and into the back of the net.
United had strong appeals for a penalty turned down when Akrofi was felled in the area but, with the game entering stoppage time, Akrofi was brought down in the area for a second time and this time the referee pointed to the spot. Collin fired home the penalty to reduce the deficit, but despite a further four minutes of added time, United could not find the equaliser.
This was the first time United had suffered defeat away to the Casuals, who are a decent side this term, but it could have been so different if they had made the most of their first half superiority.
United: Pidgeley, Butcher (Watt 37), Cole, Cruttwell, Davies, Rowe, Bodkin, Cogan, Akrofi, Harris, Stannard (Collin 69). Subs not used: Kalambayi, Pritchard, Nicholls. Attendance: 79.
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