43-second goal sets up Hastings win over Horsham

Harry Stannard scored his 17th Hastings United goal of the season in the opening minute. Picture courtesy Scott White
Harry Stannard scored his 17th Hastings United goal of the season in the opening minute. Picture courtesy Scott White

A goal after just 43 seconds set Hastings United's footballers on the way to a 3-0 victory at home to Horsham tonight (Tuesday).

United struck once more in either half thereafter to secure a win which took them past the 50-point mark for the Ryman Football League Division One South season.

Jack Harris doubled United's lead in the 37th minute. Picture courtesy Scott White

Jack Harris doubled United's lead in the 37th minute. Picture courtesy Scott White

But it was a better result than performance for United in a game which was far closer than the score would suggest and Horsham would have left The Pilot Field feeling rather hard done by.

United welcomed back Stephen Butcher at right-back after injury and Jack Harris came into the starting line-up in attack, while young Johnny Akoto kept his place at left-back.

The hosts got off to a flying start with that quickfire opening goal. Kiernan Hughes-Mason produced a lovely flick to put Harry Stannard through and he slotted past former United goalkeeper Josh Pelling.

Frannie Collin shot wide of the far post having gone clear through the inside right channel in the fifth minute, but Horsham gradually worked their way into a game which was briefly held up before continuing again with all the lights on one of the four floodlight pylons having gone out.

Tom Lawley's cross from the Horsham left rebounded just wide off a United defender and the visitors were whiskers away from a 30th minute equaliser when George Branford's driven free kick from just outside the area crashed against the foot of the post.

United doubled their lead with an unusual goal which came out of nowhere in the 37th minute. Harris blocked Pelling's attempted clearing kick following a back pass and the ball ricocheted into the net from close range.

Collin saw an angled shot parried by Pelling and then, in added time at the end of the half, saw his close range header from a great Butcher cross kept out by a fine save from the Horsham stopper.

United began the second half slowly and hearts were in mouths when Akoto, who'd hitherto had a steady game, was shown a yellow card - with Horsham appealing for a red - for a foul on the speedy Anthony Nwachukwu as he drove towards the penalty area.

The resulting Steve Metcalf free kick was palmed away by United goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley diving to his left on his 33rd birthday.

Hughes-Mason skipped past his man before seeing a low cross-shot cleared from near the line by Ashley Jones, while at the other end, Nwachukwu was whiskers away from getting a decisive touch to a cross from Horsham's left.

United were in control of the scoreboard, if not the play, and put the result beyond doubt with a third goal in the 76th minute. Hughes-Mason's pass went beyond Collin, but Jack Evans buried a terrific finish into the corner of the net from the edge of the box for his first United goal.

With Jerrome Sobers and Ollie Rowe solid in the heart of the defence, United went on to keep a first clean sheet since Boxing Day, although Nwachukwu missed his kicked on the volley when well placed inside the box.

United: Pidgeley, Butcher, Akoto (Cruttwell 72), Evans, Sobers, Rowe, Hughes-Mason, Johnson (Beale 83), Harris (Stevenson 60), Collin, Stannard. Subs not used: Watt, Harley.

Horsham: Pelling, Duncan, Metcalf, Harris, Jones, Farmer, Branford, Hunt, Gaskin, Nwachukwu, Lawley (Rogers 42). Subs not used: Hyde, Price.
Attendance: 240.

Ryman Division One South top 14 (played-points): 1 Tooting & Mitcham United 32-71, 2 Dorking Wanderers 31-65, 3 Carshalton Athletic 33-61, 4 Hythe Town 32-61, 5 Greenwich Borough 32-60, 6 Corinthian-Casuals 31-59, 7 Lewes 32-58, 8 Walton Casuals 34-56, 9 Cray Wanderers 30-53, 10 HASTINGS UNITED 30-52, 11 Faversham Town 30-49, 12 Sittingbourne 33-45, 13 South Park 24-44, 14 HORSHAM 33-44.

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