Hastings United’s footballers moved into the play-off places on the back of a very good 4-1 win away to Cray Wanderers this afternoon (Sunday).
Frannie Collin’s double, and one apiece from Danny Leonard and Harry Stannard ensured United took full advantage of the teams around them in Ryman Football League Division One South dropping points yesterday.
It was a job well done from United on a glorious spring day with temperatures approaching the mid-20s, although Cray would have left rueing their failure to convert four gilt-edged chances.
There wasn’t much between the sides during the first half of a match played at Bromley FC, but United were slightly sharper in front of goal and led 2-1 at the break as a result.
Ollie Rowe headed just wide from a Collin corner in the opening 90 seconds and United’s positive start was rewarded with a terrific goal in the eighth minute.
Collin glanced a header into the path of Leonard on the right and the recent signing ran the full-back before cutting inside and rolling the ball home to become United’s 21st different scorer this season.
Cray responded to falling behind fairly well and had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 14th minute. Danny Haynes headed wide of the far post when he seemed certain to score after Brandon Scott skipped past two United players on the home right.
United came close when Leonard turned his man near the byeline and pulled the ball back for Stannard, whose close range effort was deflected away for a corner.
But Cray equalised with a well-worked goal in the 23rd minute. Karl Dent played a nice one-two with Haynes on the edge of United’s area before slotting past Ryan Nicholls with his left foot.
United went ahead again, though, 10 minutes later. Sam Cruttwell delivered a tremendous cross from the left and the unmarked Collin made no mistake with a close range header.
Collin saw a crisply-struck free kick from fully 35 yards tipped over by Cray goalkeeper Nick Blue two minutes after that and United went in at the break with a narrow advantage.
Cray should have restored parity for a second time less than 90 seconds after the restart, but Haynes skewed an attempted chip wide of the target with just Nicholls to beat.
Rowe headed wide from a Collin corner and Matt Bodkin pulled an effort beyond the far post from Stannard’s pass before United went 3-1 up in the 58th minute.
Stephen Butcher’s throw-in on the right was flicked on by Leonard to Bodkin. He drove forward and played in Stannard, who rolled a neat left-foot shot beyond Blue.
United looked comfortable on the whole thereafter, aside from a couple of uncomfortable moments where Cray fashioned clear opportunities out of nowhere only to miss the target.
Scott stepped inside both United centre-halves, but shot wide when bearing down on goal and the same player later lobbed wide following a great ball over the top by the impressive Dent.
Cray also had a penalty shout turned down when Luke Medley claimed he was nudged in the back by Cruttwell.
United had a bit of a swagger about them in the closing stages and began to stroke the ball around with real confidence.
Bradley Stevenson drove just wide from outside the box before the fourth goal arrived in the fourth minute of added time. Collin dispossessed Jai McKinlay just outside Cray’s box before drilling an emphatic finish into the net.
United: Nicholls, Butcher, Cruttwell, Emptage, Sobers, Rowe, Bodkin (Kieran 90+2), Johnson, Stannard (Barnwell 81), Collin, Leonard (Stevenson 70). Subs not used: Smith, Akoto. Attendance: 321.
Ryman Division One South top half (played 43 matches unless stated): 1 Tooting & Mitcham United 101pts (+66 goal difference), 2 Dorking Wanderers 96 (+55), 3 Greenwich Borough 88 (+44), 4 Corinthian-Casuals 84 (+32), 5 HASTINGS UNITED (42) 76 (+60), 6 Carshalton Athletic 75 (+35), 7 Lewes 74 (+14), 8 Hythe Town 72 (+17), 9 Faversham Town 70 (+31), 10 South Park (42) 67 (+13), 11 Cray Wanderers (42) 63 (+1), 12 Walton Casuals 61 (0).
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