Hastings United’s footballers were brought back down to earth this afternoon (Saturday) with defeat in their first home game for five weeks.
The U’s were unable to follow up their brilliant 5-1 win away to Ryman Football League Division One South leaders Faversham Town the previous weekend as they lost 2-1 against Walton & Hersham.
United were missing influential defender Sean Ray, midfielder Kevin Keehan and striker Ade Olorunda as they suffered their fifth reverse in 10 home league matches so far this season against a team which trailed them on goal difference at kick-off.
Walton goalkeeper Gary Ross made a good tip over from Kenny Pogue’s shot on the turn after Evan Archibald nodded down Taser Hassan’s cross, but United fell behind in the 13th minute. Dominic Ogun’s inswinging free kick from the right was glanced into the far corner by the head of Harry Mills.
United enjoyed plenty of possession during the remainder of the first half, yet carried little attacking threat and they went further behind to a soft second Walton goal in the 43rd minute.
Home goalkeeper Josh Pelling - who 10 minutes earlier gathered a Gareth Chendlik shot at the second attempt having spilled the initial effort - came out of his area to deal with a long ball over the top, but lost out in a tackle with Andrew Mensah, who got to the loose ball just before United defender Marc Pullan to slide home Walton’s second.
Walton - whose line-up included former United defender Jahmahl King - seemed content to sit back and protect their advantage after the break. United again saw a lot of the ball and put plenty of crosses into the box, but struggled to create genuine chances and force meaningful saves out of Ross.
A bouncing long range shot by Sam Adams went just wide, Archibald headed wide from Hassan’s centre, Charlie Farmer’s looping header at the back post dropped onto the top of the crossbar and substitute Jordan Woodley fired narrowly wide from outside the box.
Andre Scarlett flashed a dangerous ball across goal at the other end and it looked like the game was meandering towards a predictable conclusion until United pulled one back in the 90th minute. An Adams corner from the right was met by a firm header from Joe Shelley and Archibald stuck out a leg from close range to score his first goal for the club.
The goal made for a more interesting finale than it had looked like being and United had a great chance to salvage the unlikeliest of points in added time. Archibald controlled an Adams pass only to skew a left-foot shot wide with just Ross to beat from a central position inside the box.
United: Pelling, Rose, Cruttwell (Woodley 72), T. Olorunda, Pullan, Farmer, Shelley, Adams, Archibald, Hassan (Hunt 90), Pogue (Boswell 78). Attendance: 396.