Every point vital in Hastings United promotion quest

Every point will be crucial for Hastings United as the promotion-seeking football club heads into the final three games of the regular season.

One more win will guarantee Chris Agutter’s side a place in the Bostik League South East Division play-offs, but Hastings need as many points as possible in their quest to go up.

Hastings are currently in fourth position and the sides placed second to fifth - at present Horsham, Ashford United, Hastings and Haywards Heath Town - at the end of the campaign will contest the play-offs.

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But the play-off winners won’t necessarily be promoted. The Bostik League South East Division is one of seven step four leagues across the country and only the five play-off winners with the best points-per-game average over the season will be promoted.

Of the 28 sides currently in the play-off places across those seven divisions, Hastings are 19th on points-per-game average with 1.909 (63 points from 33 games).

Lanre Azeez challenges for an aerial ball during Hastings United's 1-1 draw at home to Hythe Town last weekend. Picture courtesy Scott White

Lanre Azeez challenges for an aerial ball during Hastings United's 1-1 draw at home to Hythe Town last weekend. Picture courtesy Scott White

But a strong finish to the season could move them up quite a few places. The ninth placed team at present, Pontefract Collier, is only just ahead on 1.971.

Speaking after last weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Hythe Town, Hastings manager Agutter said: “It’s the points-per-game really that’s the real target.

“It’s such a weird situation potentially going into the play-offs and you can’t get promoted is a bit of a farce really, but it’s something we’ve known from day one so I’m not going to moan about it.

“It just makes me think of all the games where we’ve dropped points, like today. Missed opportunities over the course of the season where I think we’ve deserved to pick up the three points and for whatever reason we’ve not.”

Hastings are five points behind second-placed Horsham with a game in hand, one behind third-placed Ashford having played a match less and four above fifth-placed Haywards Heath.

Agutter continued: “In an ideal world we would finish second and have two home ties (in the play-offs), but Horsham have had a really decent run-in, winning games 3-2, similar to what we did at the start of the season.

“A five-point gap, but you never know what happens in this league to be honest. We’ll just keep going and hopefully continue to be unbeaten going into the play-offs, and take that form into the play-off semi-final.”

With all teams playing twice in quick succession, the Easter weekend will be crucial. Hastings are away to 16th-placed Sittingbourne today (Saturday) and at home to Ashford on Monday, kick-off 3pm.

“They’re all important now to be honest because of the points-per-game ratio,” added Agutter. “Sittingbourne on Saturday is just as important as Ashford on the Monday. They’re all important and we’re expecting to win every game.

“We’ve got a squad which is adaptable. Sittingbourne away looks very different to Ashford United at home.

“We’ve got plenty of options and plenty of choices, and over the course of the week we’ll have a look at it and see what we can do.”

Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 33-76 (+41 goal difference), 2 Horsham 34-68 (+30), 3 Ashford United 34-64 (+33), 4 HASTINGS UNITED 33-63 (+28), 5 Haywards Heath Town 33-59 (+16), 6 VCD Athletic 34-56 (+4), 7 Hythe Town 34-51 (+9), 8 Whyteleafe 33-48 (+11), 9 Phoenix Sports 33-43 (-2), 10 Whitstable Town 33-42 (-14).