Hastings United’s footballers hung on for what could be a precious point tonight (Thursday) despite playing the final 20 minutes with nine men.
United had Simon Johnson and Billy Medlock sent-off within seconds of each other in the 74th minute, but dug deep to earn a fully deserved 1-1 draw away to in-form Hythe Town.
The result moves United up to seventh in Ryman Football League Division One South - two places and two points outside the play-off spots with at least one game in hand on all of the teams around them.
Kevant Serbony went straight into United’s starting line-up after signing yesterday from Corinthian-Casuals and enjoyed an impressive debut in midfield.
Jack McLean also did well on his first start, while Sam Adams and Johnson returned from injury, and Joe Taylor made his first appearance since January in the United goal.
There was little goalmouth incident during a fairly even first half apart from a terrific Hythe goal in the 25th minute. A free kick from the home left - the award of which United hotly contested - was punched by Taylor, but only as far as the edge of the box where Alfie May struck a tremendous left-foot curler into the corner of the net.
Other than that, Serbony had a couple of early sights of goal as United began in lively fashion, while at the other end, Frankie Sawyer - one of three former United players in the Hythe side - saw a 25-yard shot bounce into Taylor’s arms.
Both teams came close in quick succession during the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Sean Ray’s header from an Adams corner was blocked near the line before Taylor saved at the feet of Jack Harris following a good ball by May in what was probably the clearest chance of the night.
Zac Attwood hit the side-netting after more good work from Serbony before United equalised in the 62nd minute. Medlock’s driven free kick from more than 25 yards took a deflection off the wall which left Hythe goalkeeper Joe Mant with no chance.
McLean’s angled shot was held by Mant above his head before Dave Cook headed over at the other end. Then came the drama as Johnson was shown a second yellow card for a late trip on the United right and before play resumed, Medlock was also given a second yellow, presumably for something he said.
Inevitably it was backs to the wall stuff for United thereafter, but they defended stoutly and apart from one David Botterill volley which flashed narrowly wide, Hythe didn’t really come close to converting their possession into a match-winning goal.
United manager Garry Wilson headed onto the pitch to make his feelings known to the referee at full time, but would doubtless have been pleased with the performance of his side against a Hythe team which had won 10 of its previous 11 matches.
United: Taylor, Cumming-Bart, Cole, Johnson, Ray, Rowe, Medlock, Adams, Attwood (Richardson-Brown 82), Serbony, McLean (Cruttwell 76). Subs not used: Temba, Wilson, Welch. Attendance: 257.
Ryman Division One South top 10 (played-points): 1 Folkestone Invicta 39-93, 2 Dorking Wanderers 39-77, 3 Worthing 38-74, 4 Faversham Town 39-70, 5 Herne Bay 39-69, 6 Hythe Town 38-69, 7 HASTINGS UNITED 37-67, 8 Molesey 38-67, 9 Ramsgate 39-64, 10 Corinthian-Casuals 39-64.
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