U’s tackle crunch relegation clash

Hastings United player-manager Sean Ray on the ball in the reverse fixture against Lewes on New Year's Day. Picture by Terry S. Blackman
Hastings United player-manager Sean Ray on the ball in the reverse fixture against Lewes on New Year's Day. Picture by Terry S. Blackman

Hastings United are heading into a crucial pair of Easter fixtures as they begin a run of 13 games in 29 days.

Their packed schedule starts away to fellow strugglers Lewes in the Ryman League Premier Division today (Saturday) before hosting table-toppers Whitehawk on Monday. United also have a Sussex Senior Cup semi-final against league rivals Bognor Regis Town at Lancing on Wednesday.

“The game with Lewes is huge, but then Monday’s game is bigger than that,” player-boss Sean Ray said. “And that will be the case from now until the end of the season.

“Each game is a cup final for us now. There are 36 points to play for and the only way we’re going to get ourselves out of this situation is to work hard to prove we’re capable of winning these matches.”

United currently occupy the second and final relegation place having lost their last three, while fifth-bottom Lewes are six points better off having played four more games. The sides fought out a 3-3 draw in the reverse fixture at The Pilot Field on New Year’s Day.

Third-bottom Thurrock were beaten 3-1 away to Margate in one of three Ryman Premier fixtures played yesterday, and a 2-0 victory for United today, incidentally, would leave the teams level on points, goals scored and goals conceded.

“We need to pick up some confidence quickly,” central defender Ray added. “A result or two this weekend will give us a timely boost and it’s key that we all take responsibility now.”

United’s reserves, meanwhile, lost 5-1 at home to North Greenford United in Suburban League Premier B yesterday, while the under-18s won 1-0 away to Horsham in the Ryman Youth League South Division on Thursday night.

TODAY’S FOOTBALL FIXTURES (3PM KICK-OFF UNLESS STATED)

Ryman League, Premier Division: Lewes v Hastings Utd.

Sussex County League, Division 1: Sidley Utd v AFC Uckfield 2; St Francis Rangers v Rye Utd.

Division 2: Bexhill Utd v Westfield; Midhurst & Easebourne v Little Common.

Reserve Section (Premier): Rye Utd v St Francis Rangers.

Reserve Section (East): Little Common v Shoreham; Sidley Utd v Bexhill Utd 4.30.

Sussex Junior Cup semi-final: Predators v Ore Athletic 2.30.

ADA East Sussex League, Premier Division: Robertsbridge Utd v Hollington Utd; Spartan 04 v Langney Wanderers at Langney.

Division 2: Battle Baptists v Sedlescombe Rangers 1.30; Icklesham Casuals v Little Chelsea; Wadhurst Utd v Windsor.

Division 3: Pebsham Sibex v Eastbourne Fishermen; St Helens v Punnetts Town; Travaux v AFC Hastings.

Division 4: Burwash v Mayfield; Iden II v Herstmonceux II; Peasmarsh Utd v Magham Down; West Hill Utd v Bexhill Utd III.

Division 5: Battle Baptists II v Bexhill AAC II.

Division 6: Battle Baptists III v Robertsbridge Utd II 3.30; Little Common III v JC Tackleway II; Orington II v Hampden Park Utd.

Hastings & District FA Junior Cup, 2nd round (2.30): JC Tackleway v Sandhurst.

Barclays Business Challenge Cup, 3rd round (2.30): Hooe Sports v Ticehurst; Peche Hill Select v Ninfield Utd; St Leonards Social v Mountfield Utd.

Wisdens Sports Challenge Cup, 3rd round (2.30): Herstmonceux v Bexhill AAC; Hollington Utd II v Orington.

ADA Challenge Cup, 3rd round (2.30): Eastbourne Athletic v Guestling; Ninfield Utd II v Peche Hill Select II; Wittersham v Eastbourne Rangers.

Eastbourne Coach Finishers Challenge Cup, 3rd round (2.30): Herstmonceux III v Westfield III; Sandhurst II v Hawkhurst Utd II; Sedlescombe Rangers II v Bexhill Rovers.