Judgement day for Hastings

Nathan Ferguson on the ball for Hastings United during their 3-1 win at home to Whitstable Town last weekend. Picture by Terry S. Blackman
Nathan Ferguson on the ball for Hastings United during their 3-1 win at home to Whitstable Town last weekend. Picture by Terry S. Blackman
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Hastings United go into the last day of the season with their play-off hopes out of their own hands.

United must win and hope that Burgess Hill Town drop points if they are to scrape into the final Ryman Football League Division One South play-off spot.

The U’s are at home to second-bottom Crawley Down Gatwick, while Burgess Hill are away to mid-table Sittingbourne today (Saturday). “We’ve just got to concentrate on doing our job and then see what happens,” said United assistant manager Ben White.

United trail Burgess Hill on goal difference after picking up three points from their two matches over the Easter weekend to the Hillians’ six. United are also facing a one-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player in the goalless draw at home to Faversham Town on March 31.

The newly-signed Bryce Masters came on as an 89th minute substitute two days after he should have started a two-match ban having picked up 10 bookings for Rye United, who by then had withdrawn from the Sussex County Football League. Masters was only named on the bench because Sam Cruttwell was injured in the warm-up.

A fascinating afternoon lies in prospect today and it will be given added spice by the fact that United’s opponents are managed by their previous manager.

John Maggs was sacked from United in late January after just five months at the helm with the club lying fourth in the table. He returned to management with Crawley Down towards the end of last month and would no doubt love to throw a spanner in the works of United’s play-off bid.

Crawley Down have lost 16 of their last 17 games, though, and have won just once since the end of November. United were 6-2 winners in last month’s reverse fixture.

Tom Vickers is still out through injury, Tim Olorunda is a major doubt, and Frankie Sawyer, Sam Adams and Taser Hassan are all rated 50-50. Josh Pelling and Andy Corrigan are carrying knocks.

If United do make the play-offs, they will travel to the runners-up - either Leatherhead or Folkestone Invicta - in the semi-finals on Tuesday night with the final scheduled for the following Saturday.

The present scenario would’ve seemed virtually unthinkable when United topped the table in early December, but the U’s have picked up just 33 points from their 25 league games since Christmas and 11 in the most recent 10. Burgess Hill, incidentally, have taken 19 points from their last 10 outings.

TODAY’S FOOTBALL FIXTURES

(Kick-off 3pm unless stated)

Ryman League, Division 1 South: Hastings Utd v Crawley Down Gatwick.

Sussex County League, Division 2: Midhurst & Easebourne v Westfield 2; Steyning Town v Bexhill Utd; Wick & Barnham Utd v Little Common.

Reserve Section (East): Lancing v Bexhill Utd.

ADA East Sussex League, Premier Division: Ore Athletic v Hollington Utd; Robertsbridge Utd v Peche Hill Select.

Division 1: Bexhill AAC v Icklesham Casuals 1.30; Crowborough Athletic III v Sedlescombe Rangers; Langney Wanderers II v Hollington Utd II; Mountfield Utd v Battle Baptists.

Division 2: Catsfield v Wittersham; Eastbourne Rangers v Ninfield Utd II; Hawkhurst Utd v Windsor 3.30; Herstmonceux v JC Tackleway; Little Chelsea v Crowhurst.

Division 3: Eastbourne Athletic v Old Hastonians; Pebsham Sibex v AFC Hastings 3.30; Rock-a-Nore II v Northiam 75; St Helens v Herstmonceux II.

Division 4: Bexhill AAC II v Sovereign Saints; Bexhill-On-Sea v St Leonards Social II; Burwash v Peche Hill Select II (double header 2 & 3.30); Peasmarsh Utd v Mayfield.

Division 5: Battle Baptists II v Bexhill Rovers 1.30; Magham Down v Hailsham Athletico; Sedlescombe Rangers II v Grasshoppers Old Boys 3.30; Wittersham II v Ticehurst II.

Division 6: Battle Baptists III v Catsfield II 3.30; Hawkhurst Utd II v Orington II 1.30; Sandhurst II v Hampden Park Utd; JC Tackleway II v Parkfield.