Hastings United's footballers produced a very good all-round performance to run out 3-0 winners at home to Lewes this afternoon (Boxing Day).
Terrific goals from Harry Stannard, Frannie Collin and Jack Harris, coupled with a third consecutive clean sheet, gave United an impressive victory over a Lewes side which had former Hastings player Jack Dixon sent-off in the first half.
United remain 11th in Ryman Football League Division One South, but are now closing in on the sides above them and they still have games in hand on all of the top 10.
In front of easily United's biggest crowd of the season and on another lovely-looking Pilot Field pitch, both teams sought to play passing football and there wasn't much between them during the opening 40 minutes - apart from two moments of real quality from United.
Stannard opened the scoring in the 17th minute with what's sure to be a strong contender for United's goal of the season award. The wide midfielder unleashed a curling shot of breathtaking quality from the left-hand corner of the box right into the far top corner.
Collin doubled United's lead in the 40th minute with another classy strike, whipping a 25-yard free kick over the defensive wall and into the corner of the net, again giving Lewes goalkeeper Chris Winterton no chance.
That goal came immediately after Dixon was shown a second yellow card for upending Stannard, who enjoyed surely one of his best games in a United shirt.
Collin came close to repeating the trick three minutes later when another free kick from a similar position, albeit slightly further out, was tipped onto the crossbar by Winterton.
Just before half time Lewes full-back Matthew George made a potentially goal-saving tackle on Matt Bodkin after more good work from the sponsor's man of the match Stannard on the left.
Collin had two good openings in the first two minutes of the second half, flashing the first of them inches wide with his left foot and then being denied by Winterton's feet after Bodkin's cross fell kindly for him.
But United only had to wait until the 49th minute for a third goal which effectively ended Lewes's by now feint hopes. Harris, on for the injured Barry Cogan, latched on to a good ball forward from Simon Johnson and worked space for a shot which he buried into the far bottom corner.
There were no goals after that, although United - who now possess the division's best goal difference - stroked the ball around well and strung together some eye-catching moves which only lacked a finish.
RIchard Davies half-volleyed over the top after playing a neat one-two with Harris and Stannard brought a diving save out of Winterton with a terrific strike from 25 yards.
Bodkin later saw a shot splendidly cleared off the line at the end of a flowing break featuring Sam Cruttwell and Collin, and in added time another good move involving Cruttwell and Harris ended with Bodkin blazing over.
At the other end, United goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley pulled off a good save at his near post to deny Charlie Coppola, while Jonte Smith's header hit United defender Ollie Rowe and ricocheted fractionally wide.
United: Pidgeley, Davies (Thorbourne 82), Butcher, Cruttwell, Rowe, Emptage, Bodkin, Johnson (Dickenson 86), Cogan (Harris 28), Collin, Stannard. Sub not used: Nicholls. Attendance: 702.
Ryman Division One South top half (played-points): 1 Dorking Wanderers 25-57, 2 Tooting & Mitcham United 26-53, 3 Greenwich Borough 26-50, 4 Corinthian-Casuals 24-49, 5 Carshalton Athletic 25-47, 6 Hythe Town 23-45, 7 Walton Casuals 26-44, 8 Lewes 24-42, 9 Sittingbourne 26-40, 10 Cray Wanderers 23-39, 11 HASTINGS UNITED 22-38, 12 Horsham 25-32.
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