Nigel Kane’s first home game of his second stint as Hastings United manager ended in defeat this afternoon (Saturday).
Kane had spoken beforehand of the need to address a wretched record at The Pilot Field this season, but the wait for a third home win of the Ryman Football League Division One South campaign continues after a 2-1 defeat to East Grinstead Town.
Two Grinstead goals in the space of three minutes either side of the midway point in the first half consigned United to another afternoon of frustration despite a super second half strike from Kyle Holden on his league debut.
On a pitch which had stood up to all the pre-match rain admirably well, United made a promising start and had the better of the opening 20 minutes. Evan Archibald and Kenny Pogue had early sights of goal, but Grinstead squandered a great chance in the fifth minute when Michael Campbell went through on goal only to lob wide.
United came agonisingly close four minutes later as Archibald struck the outside of the post with a low curling shot from a Sam Adams pass. Adams and Pogue then tested Grinstead goalkeeper Seb Bos within seconds of each other.
Grinstead took command, however, with those two goals in quick succession, both from left wing set-pieces. Mark Cumberbatch scored the 22nd minute opener with a near post header from Steve Sargent’s free kick which United goalkeeper Josh Pelling got a hand to but couldn’t keep out. Two minutes later Cumberbatch headed a corner against the crossbar and Marc Pelling stabbed home the rebound.
Pogue’s low shot was saved by Bos and Archibald delivered a dangerous ball across goal which only needed a touch, while at the other end, Kristian Campbell wasn’t far away with a shot from just outside the box and Michael Campbell’s effort following another corner was whiskers wide. Archibald had a decent chance at the end of the first half, but Bos saved low to his left.
The second half was all very low key with United lacking the necessary spark to get back into the contest until Holden produced a moment of magic in the 70th minute to halve the deficit. Archibald’s cross from the left was palmed out by Bos to the edge of the box where Holden picked out the top corner with a delightful finish.
Although the youngster’s goal gave them fresh hope, United were unable to mount concerted pressure and Grinstead had the ball in the net at the other end only for the linesman to rule it had gone out of play in the build-up.
Adams blazed over from the edge of the box and went just too high with a free kick, Pogue wasn’t far away with a back header from Ashley-Paul Robinson’s cross, Jordan Woodley went close with an effort from distance and United had an added time penalty appeal for handball turned down as they dropped beneath their opponents in the table.
United: Pelling, Brinkhurst, Cruttwell, Rose, Ray, Vickers (Woodley 63), Hassan, Adams, Pogue, Logan (Holden 24), Archibald (Robinson 83). Subs not used: Hanifan, Hause. Attendance: 348.
Standings (played-points): 1 Burgess Hill Town 25-65, 2 Faversham Town 29-65, 3 Merstham 29-60, 4 Folkestone Invicta 29-58, 5 Whyteleafe 29-46, 6 Worthing 29-46, 7 Whitstable Town 30-44, 8 South Park 24-39, 9 Tooting & Mitcham United 29-38, 10 Chipstead 28-38, 11 Sittingbourne 30-38, 12 Carshalton Athletic 30-37, 13 Guernsey 29-37, 14 Herne Bay 29-37, 15 Three Bridges 28-35, 16 Walton & Hersham 27-34, 17 Corinthian-Casuals 27-34, 18 East Grinstead Town 28-33, 19 HASTINGS UNITED 29-31, 20 Hythe Town 29-30, 21 Walton Casuals 27-25, 22 Ramsgate 27-25, 23 Redhill 25-22, 24 Horsham 26-20.