HASTINGS United began 2011 with a 2-0 defeat away to in-form Cray Wanderers.
The New Year’s Day trip to Bromley FC, where Cray play their home fixtures, marked Jason Hopkinson’s first match in charge after taking over from Tony Dolby.
The departure of six players during the managerial turnaround meant Hopkinson had to act quick to reinforce numbers and Ross Sutton, Scott Manning, Matt Hall, Ryan Storrie and Josh Millwood, as a second half substitute, were all drafted in for their Hastings debuts.
The new-look visitors were caught cold with both goals coming into the opening 10 minutes.
Leigh Bremner struck the first blow by firing home from close range after goalkeeper Paul Nessling, brought in as cover for the suspended Scott Chalmers-Stevens, had blocked two efforts on the line.
Moments later Laurent Hamici cut in from the left and from 25 yards unleashed a shot which beat Nessling inside the near post for his 19th goal of the season.
Nessling almost gifted Hamici a second with a casual pass out of his area before Sutton prevented Cray from adding a third with a goalline clearance.
Hastings were given a glimmer of hope eight minutes before half time when Bremner was shown a deserved red card for a nasty-looking lunge on Hall, who didn’t reappear for the second period.
The visitors went on to dominate possession but made little headway against a Cray side content to sit back and play on the break.
Hastings struggled to create anything remotely approaching a chance until the closing stages when they threw centre-half Sean Ray up front, and it was the skipper who came closest to pulling one back with a glancing header which smacked against the far post. Sam Adams also fired wide while Ray was just unable to divert a free kick goalwards.
Cray - who went second in the Ryman Premier on the back of this win - still looked dangerous on the counter-attack and might have added to their tally through Danny Phillips and Hamici.
This defeat extends Hastings’ run without a league win to 11 matches and leaves them precariously placed just above the drop zone.
Hastings: Nessling, Jirbandey, Sutton, Hall (Pogue 46), Ray, Manning, Davisson, Storrie (Millwood 69), Adams, Eldridge, Logan. Sub not used: Dann. Booked: Hall, Davisson.
Referee: P. Kelly. Attendance: 276.