Derby win boosts survival battle

Sean Ray set Hastings United on the way to a vital 2-1 victory at Lewes this afternoon.
Sean Ray set Hastings United on the way to a vital 2-1 victory at Lewes this afternoon.
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Hastings United gave their survival hopes a major boost with a 2-1 victory away to fellow strugglers Lewes this afternoon (Saturday).

United remain in the Ryman Football League Premier Division’s second and final relegation place, but they only trail third-bottom Thurrock on goal difference and are three points behind fourth-bottom Wingate & Finchley with five games in hand.

The U’s did the damage against fifth-bottom Lewes early on. Player-manager Sean Ray gave them an 11th minute lead with a looping header at the far post from a Danny Ellis corner and debutant Alassane N’Diaye soon made it 2-0 by getting on the end of a Zac Attwood free kick.

N’Diaye then had a chance to make it 3-0, but headed straight at the goalkeeper. Lewes had a decent opportunity of their own to pull one back only for Chris Breach’s header from a Karl Beckford free kick to bounce over the crossbar.

United goalkeeper Matt Cruttwell dived bravely at the feet of Nathan Crabb as Lewes enjoyed a better spell, while Rory Murphy effected a superb defensive header from Steve Brinkhurst’s dangerous cross.

Cruttwell went off injured early in the second half and attacking player Sam Adams took over the gloves, not for the first time in his career. Ray made an excellent block to clear a Beckford volley and Crabb fired over from a narrow angle.

Ben Godfrey’s effort after beating Adams to a Callum Dunne cross looped over before Lewes pulled one back via a Beckford penalty in the 77th minute. Ray was booked for the foul which led to the spot-kick, although there were strong claims he actually won the ball.

United survived a mad scramble and Adams saved a Beckford free kick from the edge of the area before the final whistle finally sounded nearly 11 minutes into added time. It was just United’s fifth league win of the season.

United: Cruttwell, Cox, Murphy, Warren, Ray, Judge, Ellis, Dixon, Rhule, Attwood, N’Diaye. Subs: Carey, Richardson, Crellin, Adams, Williams. Attendance: 788.

Ryman Premier bottom seven (played-points): Harrow Borough 33-34, Cray Wanderers 33-34, Lewes 35-32, Wingate & Finchley 36-32, Thurrock 31-29, HASTINGS UNITED 31-29, Carshalton Athletic 36-25.

Today’s other local results:

Sussex County League, Division 1: SIDLEY UNITED 3 AFC Uckfield 0; St Francis Rangers 2 RYE UNITED 2.

Division 2: BEXHILL UNITED 2 WESTFIELD 3; Midhurst & Easebourne 1 LITTLE COMMON 1.