HASTINGS United claimed a much-needed 2-1 victory in a fractious relegation tussle at home to Aveley.
The U’s should have won more convincingly but ultimately Kenny Pogue’s 48th minute strike proved the difference between two teams who both finished the Ryman Premier fixture with 10 men.
The hosts opened the scoring on 28 minutes through Lee Carey’s superbly struck free kick which found the top corner of Aveley’s net.
Zac Attwood then went close to doubling the lead with a header which goalkeeper Adam Rafis did well to gather at his near post.
Hastings were rocked on their heels following a mistake by Matt Armstrong-Ford who completely misjudged a deep cross from Paul Shave and allowed the ball to sail over his head for the equaliser.
Their restored their advantage soon after half time, however, when Jack Dixon’s cross was met by Danny Ellis whose clever back flick was thumped home by Pogue.
Hastings went on to create the better chances in the second half with Jordan Woodley flashing a drive just past the upright, but there were still moments of concern at the other end, in particular when Sean Bonnett-Johnson blazed wide from 10 yards.
The U’s were twice denied by the woodwork in the space of a couple of minutes when Ben Davisson saw his shot cannon back off the near post and then a Jamie Crellin looping header hit the top of the crossbar. Attwood also flashed a header just wide.
The game finished on an unsavoury note when Aveley substitute Abs Thompson got to grips with Woodley near the corner flag.
Both were given their marching orders but the feeling after the game was that the Hastings player was unlucky to be dismissed. In fact, initially, referee Chris Phillips - whose performance did not inspire the greatest of confidence all afternoon - showed a red card to Ross Sutton before realising his mistake.
Hastings: Armstrong-Ford, Dixon, Sutton, Carey, Ray, Jirbandey, Ellis, Crellin, Pogue (Davisson 68), Attwood, Woodley. Subs not used: Whitehead, Gonsalves, Barham.
Referee: Chris Phillips (Carshalton Beeches). Attendance: 324.