Four-star United hit back for New Year's Eve win
Hastings United's footballers twice came from behind to make it a winning end to 2016 this afternoon (New Year's Eve).
United recovered from 1-0 and 2-1 down to win 4-2 away to Sittingbourne in Ryman Football League Division One South courtesy of three goals in 15 second half minutes.
Kiernan Hughes-Mason proved the hero, coming off the bench to set up United's second goal before scoring the third and fourth as they moved up two places to ninth in the table following their fourth successive victory.
United came out on top because they were the more clinical side in front of goal and Sittingbourne, who appeared the more likely winners for much of the game, were left to rue missed chances.
After a fairly quiet start in the Kent sunshine, Sittingbourne struck first in the 18th minute. Hitcham Akhazzan's left wing corner was punched by United goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley straight to Connor Wilkins, whose tremendous first-time volley from the edge of the box flew into the net.
Sittingbourne got on top after that. Anthony O'Connor flicked Akhazzan's cut-back over the top from eight yards and Remill Davis later pulled his shot wide of the far post from O'Connor's cross.
United equalised out of nowhere really in the 37th minute. Matt Bodkin skipped past Tom Brunt on the away left and although his shot and the subsequent United follow-up were blocked, it was third time lucky as Frannie Collin fired into the top corner with his left foot.
Right at the end of the first half, Collin's low drive was deflected behind for a corner, from which Richard Davies headed wide of the far post.
Sittingbourne hit the front again in the 53rd minute. United cleared several efforts from near their line in quick succession, but never completely got the ball away and Sittingbourne eventually broke through when Tom Carlse stepped inside Sam Cruttwell and found the top corner.
Pidgeley then saved Stefan Wright's low drive and although Jack Harris missed the target from Harry Stannard's pass at the other end, Sittingbourne were firmly on top. Pidgeley pulled off an amazing double save from Davis to keep United in the game.
United levelled things up for a second time in the 72nd minute. Hughes-Mason latched on to Simon Johnson's flicked ball over the top and played a lovely inside pass for Stannard to slot past home goalkeeper Simon Overland.
Sittingbourne fashioned two decent opportunities in the space of three minutes to go ahead for the third time. Josh Wisson headed straight at Pidgeley when unmarked before Davis volleyed over at a set-piece.
United made them pay by hitting the front for the first time in the 78th minute. Sittingbourne captain Jono Richardson got his head to a United free kick, but the ball dropped to Hughes-Mason, who executed a delightful curling shot into the bottom corner from five yards outside the box.
The visitors took charge thereafter. Bodkin pulled his shot wide at the end of a fine run into the box and Collin then diverted home Bodkin's cross only to be flagged offside.
Seconds later, though, United put the game to bed with a fourth goal in the 86th minute. Hughes-Mason found space in the home box and produced a deft lob over the goalkeeper into the net.
United could even have had a fifth in added time as substitute Bradley Pritchard was denied by the body of Overland having danced past two defenders in the area.
United: Pidgeley, Davies, Dickenson (Pritchard 83), Cruttwell, Rowe, Butcher, Bodkin (Dullaway 90), Johnson, Harris (Hughes-Mason 59), Collin, Stannard. Sub not used: Nicholls. Attendance: 237.
Ryman Division One South top 10 (played-points): 1 Dorking Wanderers 26-60, 2 Tooting & Mitcham United 27-56, 3 Greenwich Borough 27-53, 4 Corinthian-Casuals 24-49, 5 Hythe Town 25-49, 6 Carshalton Athletic 26-47, 7 Walton Casuals 27-47, 8 Lewes 25-45, 9 HASTINGS UNITED 23-41, 10 Cray Wanderers 24-40.