Hastings United Football Club kept itself in the play-off places with an important home victory this afternoon (Saturday), but lost its leading scorer to injury.
The U’s won 4-2 against Molesey to remain in the final Ryman Football League Division One South play-off spot of fifth, although sixth-placed Faversham Town only trail United on goal difference and have a game in hand.
Billy Medlock scored two of United’s goals to take his tally for the season to 28, but was carried off in the second half with an injured ankle, which subsequently became pretty significantly swollen. Sam Adams and Zac Attwood were the other scorers.
United manager Garry Wilson made two changes from the 1-0 win at East Grinstead Town four days previously, with Sam Cruttwell and Jack McLean replacing Chris Cumming-Bart and Kevant Serbony. Sean Ray returned to the squad, but had to settle for a place on the bench.
The first half was a scrappy affair in which most of the few chances fashioned at either end resulted in goals. Medlock was off target with a shot from just outside the box before opening the scoring in the 23rd minute.
Medlock struck a free kick from United’s left towards goal. The ball deflected off the defensive wall, and although it didn’t really change direction, neither a Molesey defender nor goalkeeper Liam Allen could get anything on it to keep it out.
United’s lead, however, lasted just four minutes. James McShane picked up possession in a central position midway inside United’s half and played in Charlie Samuels, who drove the ball past home goalkeeper Joe Taylor at the near post.
United had a decent chance to go back in front when Jack McLean dispossessed the last defender just outside the box and tried to round Allen, but the goalkeeper did enough to prevent him getting a shot away.
The U’s did retake the lead in the 42nd minute. Sam Cole made good ground down the left before delivering a cross which bounced up for Adams to guide a neat finish in off the far post.
The game came to life after the break as a highly entertaining second half unfolded. Joe Pratley-Jones flashed a low shot from distance just wide of United’s goal before the U’s went 3-1 up in the 50th minute.
Cruttwell delivered a right-footed cross from near the byeline on the home right which sailed over the goalkeeper and Medlock nodded in from virtually on the goal-line at the far post.
Medlock’s afternoon was ended by a late challenge from Pratley-Jones five minutes later, though, and Molesey pulled one back seconds later. McShane somehow rode several challenges on his way into the box and rolled the ball past Taylor.
Cole’s header from an Adams corner was held by McLean and Samuels unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty at the other end before a breathless passage of play around the 70-minute mark.
Cole hit the crossbar with a tremendous strike from 25 yards and seconds later at the other end, Samuels’ firm drive having got away down the left was well saved by Taylor. Not long after that, McLean’s shot was brilliantly blocked on the line by Ross Chalke.
United restored their two-goal cushion in the 76th minute. Cole hooked a lofted ball forward and Attwood held off Molesey defender Rob Sheridan before driving a low shot through Allen’s legs.
The U’s saw the game out pretty comfortably thereafter, although Molesey did have a decent chance right at the end when substitute Dre Grobler headed wide of the far post from McShane’s right wing free kick.
All of the five other top seven clubs in action today also won so United’s fate remains out of their hands going into the final two fixtures even though they now have more points than they achieved when they did make the play-offs two years ago.
United: Taylor, Davies, Wilson, Johnson, Smith, Rowe, Medlock (Attwood 55), Adams, Cole, Cruttwell, McLean (Cumming-Bart 73). Subs not used: Richardson-Brown, Serbony, Ray. Attendance: 404.
Ryman Division One South top eight (played 44 matches unless stated): 1 Folkestone Invicta 108pts, 2 Dorking Wanderers (42) 84, 3 Worthing 84, 4 Hythe Town 84, 5 HASTINGS UNITED 80, 6 Faversham Town (43) 80, 7 Corinthian-Casuals 79, 8 Molesey 74.
Goal highlights courtesy Dan Willett.
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