Hastings draw with play-off rivals Hythe

Simon Johnson's fifth goal of the season put Hastings United ahead in the 1-1 draw at Hythe Town. Picture courtesy Scott White
Simon Johnson's fifth goal of the season put Hastings United ahead in the 1-1 draw at Hythe Town. Picture courtesy Scott White

Hastings United’s footballers picked up a 1-1 draw in a key game away to fellow play-off hopefuls Hythe Town tonight (Tuesday).

Simon Johnson gave United a half time lead only for Hythe to level through substitute Kieron Campbell just before the midway point of the second half.

It means United remain in the final Ryman Football League Division One South play-off spot of fifth, ahead of Hythe on goal difference, with 10 games remaining.

United, who restored Jerrome Sobers and Harry Stannard to the starting line-up, edged a fairly tight first half and scored with the only real chance either side fashioned before the break.

Stannard got on the end of a good ball over the top from Jack Evans and laid it back for Johnson, making a forward run from midfield, to drive low past Hythe goalkeeper Joe Mant in the 37th minute.

Hythe lost one former United striker, Jay May, to injury after half-an-hour and replaced him with another in Kenny Pogue.

The game livened up after half time and although United goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley was called into action from Craig Cloke’s long range piledriver, the visitors looked in control during the opening 20 minutes of the second period.

Mant made a fine save low to his right from Bradley Stevenson’s 25-yard drive and five minutes later Matt Bodkin headed straight at the goalkeeper from Frannie Collin’s cross.

United had a decent chance to go two-up in the 66th minute. Jack Harris picked Mant’s pocket as he tried to shield the ball out and pulled it back for Stannard, who didn’t properly get hold of his shot and Ryan Johnson cleared off the line.

A minute later Hythe were level. A left wing corner was cleared by a United head, but only as far as Campbell, who fired a low 25-yard drive into the corner of the net, giving Pidgeley no chance.

United initially responded well to being pegged back and Sam Cruttwell, who had a decent game at left-back, shot into the side-netting from an acute angle at the end of a remarkable solo run.

But Hythe got on top, for the first time really in the match, during the final 20 minutes. Ben Wilson’s fierce angled drive was tipped over at the near post by Pidgeley, who then safely clutched Pogue’s lob and a header by the same player from a Wilson free kick.

While those stops were pretty comfortable, Pidgeley then pulled off a more difficult save low down by his left-hand post to keep out Campbell’s header from a Jerald Aboagye cross.

Both sides might have nabbed a winner in the 89th minute. Sobers firstly headed straight at Mant from Bodkin’s cross before Hythe broke and a low shot by former United midfielder Sam Adams was saved by Pidgeley.

United: Pidgeley, Akoto (Butcher HT), Cruttwell, Evans, Sobers, Rowe, Bodkin, Johnson (Harris 56), Stevenson, Collin, Stannard (Hughes-Mason 83). Subs not used: Emptage, Nicholls. Attendance: 243.

Ryman Division One South top 10 (played-points): 1 Tooting & Mitcham United 36-83 (+58 goal difference), 2 Dorking Wanderers 36-80 (+48), 3 Greenwich Borough 35-69 (+31), 4 Carshalton Athletic 37-67 (+31), 5 HASTINGS UNITED 36-66 (+54), 6 Hythe Town 36-66 (+24), 7 Lewes 36-64 (+9), 8 Corinthian-Casuals 35-63 (+16), 9 Cray Wanderers 35-57 (+8), 10 Walton Casuals 37-57 (+5).

See our comprehensive sports coverage in the Observer every Friday.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make this website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex

3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!