Hastings United’s footballers made it three league victories out of four with a 3-1 win at home to Hythe Town this afternoon (Saturday).
Second half goals from Jack Walder, Sam Cole and Bright Temba gave United the points in an entertaining Ryman Football League Division One South encounter.
It was United’s second win over Hythe in the space of five days having beaten them 3-2 in round one of the league’s Robert Dyas Cup on Tuesday night.
United’s starting XI showed eight changes from that game and included a debut for right-sided player Stephen Okoh, whose international clearance came through during the week.
On a roasting hot afternoon at The Pilot Field, an open and end to end first half somehow ended goalless despite Hythe hitting the crossbar three times and Hastings once.
Hythe twice came close in the opening 12 minutes. United goalkeeper Josh Pelling made a great save with his feet to deny a clean through Sam Conlon before Sam Fisher struck the crossbar from Josh Burchell’s right wing corner.
After Cole dragged a shot well wide and then provided a cross which Sam Adams poked just wide of the near post, United themselves hit the crossbar through Okoh’s header from an Adams delivery.
United somehow remained on level terms after Hythe struck the crossbar twice in as many seconds following another corner. Jordan Wells had the first effort with a header and Ollie Lee came equally close with the follow-up.
There was controversy five minutes before the break when Hythe defender Laurence Harvey escaped with a yellow card - much to the dismay of the home crowd - for pulling down Jack Harris just outside the box.
United had a decent opportunity to draw first blood a couple of minutes later, but away goalkeeper Joe Mant pulled off a fine stop with his feet to keep out Okoh’s shot from an Adams cross.
The U’s bossed the second half, particularly after dropping Adams back into midfield and bringing on Temba up-front, and three goals in 18 minutes meant the fixture ended in a home win for the third successive season.
Walder opened the scoring with a tremendous strike shortly after the hour. United’s captain unleashed a left-foot piledriver from more than 25 yards which flashed past the goalkeeper.
Harris went just wide before United doubled their lead in the 72nd minute. A diagonal ball from Adams found Okoh in acres of space on the home right and his low cross was turned home by the sliding Cole from inside the six yard box.
Seven minutes later it was 3-0. Alfie Hall played a good ball inside from the left-hand touchline and Temba curled a delightful shot into the far corner via the inside of the post.
A Sam Cruttwell free kick almost led to a fourth before Hythe grabbed a 90th minute consolation. Sean Ray was adjudged to have pulled down Johan Caney-Brown near the byeline and Conlon sent Pelling the wrong way with the resulting penalty.
Things started to get a touch heated in added time and tempers really frayed after the final whistle with suggestions of a punch or two being thrown in the melee, but the referee appeared to keep his cards in his pocket.
United: Pelling, Crabb, Hall, Smith, Ray, Walder, Adams, Hollobone (Temba 52), Okoh (Richardson-Brown 83), Harris, Cole (Cruttwell 81). Subs not used: Vickers, Hanifan. Attendance: 364.
Ryman Division One South top eight (all played 4 matches): 1 Corinthian-Casuals 10pts (+6 goal difference), 2 Folkestone Invicta 10 (+4), 3 HASTINGS UNITED 9 (+9), 4 Chatham Town 9 (+5), 5 Herne Bay 9 (+4), 6 South Park 9 (+3), 7 Faversham Town 9 (+3), 8 Dorking Wanderers 8 (+6).
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