Hastings United Football Club had to settle for a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Hythe Town this afternoon (Saturday).
Hastings again performed well and were comfortably the better side over the 90 minutes, but were thwarted by an inspired display from Hythe goalkeeper George Kamurasi and twice hit the woodwork.
In the end Hastings needed a second half Bradley Stevenson equaliser to extend their unbeaten run to five Bostik League South East Division matches, even if their winning streak ended at four.
See also: * Hastings United ‘confident but not arrogant’ ahead of run-in
* Premier League clubs watching Hastings United players
* Hastings United drop to third after rivals win 6-1
* In-form Hastings United ‘turning performances into results’
Hastings remain third in the table, but are now five points behind second-placed Horsham, who won 3-2 at Herne Bay. Fourth-placed Ashford United and fifth-placed Haywards Heath Town lost to champions Cray Wanderers and Sevenoaks Town respectively.
After a quiet start to the match, with Hastings enjoying plenty of possession and playing some good football, the first action of note came midway through the first half when Kamurasi dived low to his right to make an outstanding save from Jack Dixon’s shot.
Moments later Kamurasi palmed away Jordy Mongoy’s cross-shot before producing another fine stop to tip over Daniel Ajakaiye’s left-footed effort.
Hythe then opened the scoring with a splendid individual goal on the break in the 26th minute. Sid Sollis got on the end of a ball down the away left, shook off Adam Lovatt and cut in past Jack Tucker before slotting beyond Louis Rogers in the Hastings goal.
Hastings were whiskers away from equalising when Stevenson’s left-footed shot from outside the box came back off the post and Dixon’s deflected follow-up flashed just wide. The resulting corner led to Mongoy hitting an angled shot which wasn’t far away from the far top corner.
Stevenson unleashed a couple of shots from distance in the closing minutes of the first half, the first of which bounced awkwardly in front of Kamurasi, who parried, and the second was pushed aside by the goalkeeper for a corner.
On loan Gillingham midfielder Stevenson again tested Kamurasi from outside the area early in the second period, while at the other end, Lanre Azeez made an important tackle following a nice exchange of passes between Sollis and Zak Ansah.
Hastings manager Chris Agutter made a double substitution in the 54th minute, bringing on Davide Rodari and Sam Cruttwell for Mongoy and Sam Adams, and both incoming players made an impact.
Cruttwell had an angled shot held by Kamurasi at the second attempt before unleashing a powerful 25-yard drive which went through the goalkeeper’s fingers and hit the crossbar. In between times, Stevenson sent a 25-yard curler just wide.
Hastings deservedly got back on level terms in the 69th minute. A spectacular scissor kick from an unusually subdued Ajakaiye was well saved by Kamurasi diving to his left, but Stevenson turned in the rebound.
Hythe almost retook the lead five minutes later, but Rogers pulled off two good saves in quick succession to deny Ansah, who was initially played in by a sublime flick from Kieron Campbell.
At the other end, Dixon and Ajakaiye were foiled by defensive blocks at the end of a neat move down the right involving Azeez and Stevenson. More good work from Stevenson and Azeez moments later led to Rodari acrobatically volleying over.
Hythe, by now carrying more of an attacking threat, had another good opportunity when Sollis burst clear following an unusually miscued pass from Lovatt only for Rogers to make a great save with his feet.
Ansah drove just wide from outside the box as the clock ticked towards the 90-minute mark. In added time, Ajakaiye’s shot deflected just wide and Gary Elphick’s header from the resulting Cruttwell corner was held by that man Kamurasi.
Hastings: Rogers; Azeez, Elphick, Tucker, Beale; Stevenson (Ibrahiym 89), Lovatt, Dixon, Adams (Cruttwell 54), Mongoy (Rodari 54); Ajakaiye. Subs not used: Howlett-Mundle, Horlock. Attendance: 513.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 33-76 (+41 goal difference), 2 Horsham 34-68 (+30), 3 HASTINGS UNITED 33-63 (+28), 4 Ashford United 33-61 (+31), 5 Haywards Heath Town 33-59 (+16), 6 VCD Athletic 33-56 (+6), 7 Hythe Town 34-51 (+9), 8 Whyteleafe 33-48 (+11), 9 Phoenix Sports 33-43 (-2), 10 Whitstable Town 33-42 (-14).