United net fine victory over high-riding Hythe
Hastings United Football Club breathed new life into its play-off quest with victory in a crucial game this afternoon (Saturday).
Goals from Harry Stannard and Bradley Stevenson gave United a 2-1 win at home to fifth-placed Hythe Town in Ryman Football League Division One South.
United move up one place to ninth and are 10 points outside the play-off spots, although they do have games in hand on all of the teams above them.
Both sides had their chances during a fairly even first half, but it was United who led at the break through Stannard's 43rd minute goal. Stephen Butcher's cross from the right dropped kindly for Stannard to steer home from seven yards.
Prior to that, the usually deadly Frannie Collin blazed a great chance over Hythe's crossbar from just outside the six yard box, Simon Johnson headed just wide from another Butcher delivery and Stannard's angled shot at the end of a run down the left went beyond the far post.
At the other end, Dean Grant's volley was well saved by United goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley to his right and Butcher effected a crucial challenge on Jay May as the away forward was about to swoop on the rebound.
Pidgeley later pulled off a superb save low to his right to touch Matt Newman's shot against the post following a lovely little flick round the corner by May, one of five former United players in Hythe's matchday squad.
Hythe looked the stronger side during the second half, particularly early on, and United had already survived a couple of nervous moments before the visitors equalised in he 53rd minute.
United captain Johnson couldn't prevent former Pilot Field favourite Sam Adams getting a cross away from near the byeline on Hythe's right and the unmarked Grant headed home at the near post.
Ben Wilson lashed over at the far post following another Adams cross soon afterwards and May's goalbound effort from inside the area was blocked by Matt Bodkin just after the hour.
With United left-back Adam Green having been substituted at half time, Hythe were now getting a lot of joy down their right and only a brilliant reflex save from Pidgeley to keep out May's volley from inside the six yard box prevented the away side taking the lead.
But it was United who grabbed the winner in the 78th minute. Bradley Stevenson, who had only been on the field nine minutes, side-stepped a couple of challenges on the United left before firing home a terrific left-foot shot from 25 yards, becoming United's 17th different scorer this season.
Hythe sent on a couple of ex-United forwards, Frankie Sawyer and Kenny Pogue, during the closing stages, but United saw the game out with few alarms to end a run of four points from as many matches since the turn of the year.
As well as the result, United manager Darren Hare would've been pleased with the performances of his most recent recruits. In addition to Stevenson scoring the winner, defender Jerrome Sobers and midfielder Jack Evans performed well in only their second outings for the club.
United: Pidgeley, Butcher, Green (Emptage HT), Evans, Sobers, Rowe, Bodkin, Johnson, Hughes-Mason (Stevenson 69), Collin, Stannard (Watt 89). Subs not used: Harris, Nicholls. Attendance: 368.
Ryman Division One South top 10 (played-points): 1 Tooting & Mitcham United 31-68, 2 Dorking Wanderers 30-64, 3 Greenwich Borough 31-59, 4 Carshalton Athletic 32-58, 5 Hythe Town 31-58, 6 Walton Casuals 33-56, 7 Lewes 31-55, 8 Corinthian-Casuals 29-53, 9 HASTINGS UNITED 28-48, 10 Cray Wanderers 28-47.
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