Hastings United came from behind to record a vital victory this afternoon (Saturday).
The U’s overturned a second half deficit to triumph 3-1 in a proverbial must-win game at home to Whitstable Town thanks to a brace of goals from Frankie Sawyer and one from Sam Adams.
United remain in the final Ryman Football League Division One South play-off spot, but with Burgess Hill Town coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at second-placed Leatherhead and Merstham winning 3-1 at home to Herne Bay, they only have a three-point cushion over their closest pursuers with two games left to play.
The game got off to a lively start on a lovely-looking pitch at The Pilot Field. Ben Judge probably should have given United the lead inside 90 seconds with a far post header from a Sam Adams corner and moments later Sawyer almost picked the pocket of Whitstable goalkeeper Luke Watkins as he dallied on the ball.
Sam Cruttwell made an important intervention at the other end, while United striker Kenny Pogue might have been fortunate to receive a yellow card rather than red for scything down Joe Kane. Whitstable midfielder Steve Hafner was also booked for his part in the ensuing pushing and shoving.
Nathan Ferguson saw a goalbound effort blocked following a good cross by fellow United midfielder Taser Hassan and Tim Olorunda’s header from another Adams corner was also heading for the target until being deflected over. In between times, Ashley Miller found the side-netting at the other end.
After a 15-minute period with little incident, Pogue glanced a header from Ferguson’s left wing cross onto the top of the net and Hassan’s shot was very well saved by Watkins low to his left in the closing stages of the first half.
Sawyer hit the post within three minutes of the restart after Adams challenged Watkins from a Cruttwell cross, but United fell behind in the 55th minute. Laurence Harvey came charging in unchallenged to bury a firm header from Macauley Murray’s right wing corner.
United levelled just three minutes later, though, as Pogue’s low cross from the right was turned home by Sawyer. The U’s then had a massive let-off as Whitstable substitute Ross Webb somehow headed wide from three yards following a cross by the impressive Miller.
Sawyer picked up a knock and had been hobbling for some time when he buried a low left-foot shot into the corner from just inside the box to give United a 75th minute lead. Sawyer’s 11th goal since returning to United at the start of February came with his final touch as he was substituted before play restarted.
Tristan Toney had a header from a corner nodded off the Whitstable line and Adams saw a shot saved at the end of a fine solo run before United sealed their victory with a third goal in the 85th minute. Adams netted his 11th of the season by poking past Watkins from Pogue’s left wing cross.
United goalkeeper Josh Pelling saved from Charlie Smith and Miller in added time. It was the seventh time this season that United have won a game in which they have trailed during the second half and ended a run of three straight defeats.
United: Pelling, Darby, Cruttwell, Olorunda, Judge, Ferguson, Hassan (Toney 73), Ellis, Pogue (Oyinsan 87), Sawyer (O’Connor 76), Adams. Subs not used: Corrigan, Nessling.
Ryman Division One South top seven (played-points): 1 Peacehaven & Telscombe 44-104 (+74 goal difference), 2 Leatherhead 44-88 (+45), 3 Folkestone Invicta 44-85 (+42), 4 Guernsey 44-79 (+28), 5 HASTINGS UNITED 44-76 (+11), 6 Burgess Hill Town 44-73 (+18), 7 Merstham 44-73 (+18).