Hastings' run ended by leaders Lewes
Hastings United Football Club saw its 10-match unbeaten league run ended by table-topping opposition this afternoon (Boxing Day).
A goal in either half - a penalty and free kick - consigned Hastings to a 2-0 loss away to Bostik League Division One South leaders Lewes.
Hastings saw plenty of the ball throughout a fairly decent contest, but struggled to convert possession into goalscoring opportunities and failed to bring a genuine save out of Lewes goalkeeper Chris Winterton all afternoon.
Hastings manager Chris Agutter made one change to his starting line-up from the weekend win over Ramsgate, with Sam Cruttwell replacing Adam Lovatt in midfield.
Liam Wilson, who played for Hastings under his dad Garry a couple of seasons ago, and Steve Brinkhurst, who played for Hastings during the 2014/15 campaign, both lined-up in the Lewes defence, while Billy Medlock, who started this season at Hastings, was on the home bench.
On a grey and showery afternoon at The Dripping Pan, Lewes opened the scoring in the 24th minute from the first real chance fashioned by either side.
Lewes cleared a Hastings free kick and found Charlie Coppola in space on their left. He ran at Hastings full-back Jack Dixon, who slid in and brought him down for a penalty which Jonte Smith - scorer of the winning goal in August’s reverse fixture - coolly tucked away.
The only other attempt of note during the first half was a well-struck 25-yard shot by recent Lewes signing Omarr Lawson which was well saved by Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock low to his left.
Hastings would have felt slightly aggrieved to be trailing at the break having got into some good positions, but on several occasions their final ball let them down. Two inviting deliveries they did produce, from Davide Rodari and Dixon, only lacked a finishing touch.
Rodari fired over from 30 yards early in the second period before Lewes doubled their advantage through a piece of real quality in the 58th minute.
Left-back Leon Redwood, who rejoined Lewes on a loan arrangement from Eastbourne Borough last week, struck a magnificent left-footed free kick into the far corner via the underside of the crossbar from five yards outside the box.
A Ronnie Conlon curler from outside the Hastings area went just beyond the far post and moments later Coppola’s shot at the end of a well-worked Lewes move was fairly comfortably held by Horlock.
Hastings made all three of their permitted substitutions before the midway point in the second period and continued to try and pass their way back into the game, but didn’t really look like breaking down a resolute Lewes side.
Kenny Pogue turned a Sam Adams cross wide of the near post before an Adams shot from distance bounced just wide. In between times at the other end, Gus Sow struck the angle of post and crossbar with a lovely curling effort from the edge of the D.
After Lewes’ man of the match Sow seemed fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for bringing down Calum Davies from behind, Tom Climpson - who along with Ollie Rowe performed well in the Hastings defence - saw a far post header blocked by Brinkhurst in the 90th minute.
The game was soured somewhat by a repeat of the unruly behaviour by some Hastings supporters from the corresponding fixture last season.
An explosive device was let off at half time and two more were thrown onto the pitch in quick succession from behind the Lewes goal eight minutes into the second half.
That prompted one or two Hastings players, notably Dayshonne Golding, to head over to the supporters behind the goal and appeal for them to behave.
Police arrived at the ground shortly afterwards and things settled down for the remainder of the match, although there did seem to be an altercation with a steward after the final whistle.
On top of that, there was a skirmish behind the goal at the opposite end of the ground during half time, which some of the Hastings substitutes ran over to and helped resolve.
Hastings: Horlock, Dixon, Beale, Cruttwell, Rowe, Climpson, Rodari (Walker 54), Adams, Davies, Janneh (Lovatt 58), Golding (Pogue 66). Subs not used: Pritchard, Cole. Attendance: 802.
Bostik League Division One South top half (played-points): 1 Lewes 25-54, 2 Cray Wanderers 24-51, 3 Corinthian-Casuals 26-49, 4 Walton Casuals 26-49, 5 Carshalton Athletic 26-49, 6 Greenwich Borough 26-48, 7 Hythe Town 26-41, 8 Phoenix Sports 26-40, 9 South Park 22-36, 10 Sittingbourne 25-36, 11 Herne Bay 25-36, 12 HASTINGS UNITED 25-35.