HASTINGS United made it three wins in their last four games with a 3-1 defeat of second-from-bottom Croydon Athletic.
Sam Adams’ banished the nightmares of his midweek penalty miss away to AFC Hornchurch by scoring twice from the spot, albeit the first one from a rebound after the keeper had blocked his initial effort. And skipper Sean Ray headed the third before Croydon grabbed a stoppage time consolation.
The victory meant Hastings moved five points clear of drop zone in the Ryman Premier as none of the other teams below them managed to win. Aveley drew 2-2 at Carshalton Athletic, Folkestone Invicta were held 1-1 away to Wealdstone and rock bottom Maidstone United lost 2-0 at home to Billericay Town. Horsham - the other team in the relegation mix - drew 1-1 at Cray Wanderers.
Hastings manager Jason Hopkinson started the match by ditching the 4-5-1 formation which had served him so well in recent weeks and switching to two up top in Kenny Pogue and George Porter.
The players struggled to get going and after around half-an-hour Hastings reverted to playing Pogue as a lone striker ahead of a five-man midfield.
Despite not playing that well Hastings still created a couple of decent chances and Ray looked to have scored with a header from Russell Eldridge’s corner but keeper Charlie Mitten managed to scoop the ball clear.
Harry Beautyman went close with a shot from the edge of the box before being substituted on 35 minutes due to the groin injury which had made him doubt before the game, and Adams fired wildly after good approach play by Porter.
Hastings were clearly the better side and deservedly broke the deadlock three minutes before the interval after Porter was brought down by Leandre Lohourignon. Adams saw his initial spot-kick saved by Mitten but the ball ran loose for the midfielder to fire home.
Ten minutes into the second half Hastings were awarded a second penalty - this time for Rhys Coleman’s tug on Ray at a set-piece - and Adams made no mistake with a well-struck effort into the bottom corner.
They made sure of the win on 69 minutes courtesy of Ray’s downward header from an Eldridge free kick. Hastings took their foot off the gas and allowed a poor Croydon side to pull a goal back through Stefan Joseph’s shot-on-the-turn from 12 yards.
The visitors’ only other effort of note had come in only the second minute when Josh Jirbandey got back to clear off the line after Lasse Weber had latched on to a weak Ollie Row back header.
Hastings (4-4-2): Barton; Rowe, Ray, Jirbandey, Storrie; Adams, Beautyman (Olorunda 35), Eldridge, Billings; Porter (West 82), Pogue (White 71). Subs not used: Manning, Chalmers-Stevens.
Referee: Darren Blunden (Dartford). Attendance: 352.