Hastings United all set for first ever home play-off tie

Hastings United Football Club is all set for its first ever home game in the end-of-season play-offs.

Monday, 29th April 2019, 12:52 pm
Updated Monday, 29th April 2019, 12:53 pm
Hastings United defender Jack Tucker wins a header during Easter Monday's league game at home to Ashford United. Picture courtesy Scott White

Chris Agutter’s side will host Ashford United in the Bostik League South East Division play-off semi-finals tonight (Monday). Kick-off at The Pilot Field is 7.45pm.

Supporters are reminded that season tickets will not be valid for the play-off matches and season ticket holders will have to pay normal admission. This is a directive of the league as gate receipts are shared between the two clubs and the league.

* 10-man Hastings United draw with fellow promotion hopefulsHastings have featured in play-offs in three previous seasons, but all of the four matches they’ve played have been away from home.

In 2007 they clinched promotion under the management of Nigel Kane courtesy of memorable victories at Dover Athletic and Tooting & Mitcham United.

Seven years later they lost a semi-final in extra-time away to Folkestone Invicta and in 2017 Hastings were pipped on penalties by Dorking Wanderers, who this season won the Bostik League Premier Division title, at the same stage.

Now they will seek to make the most of home advantage in the third versus fourth semi-final against Ashford. Second-placed Horsham will entertain fifth-placed Haywards Heath Town in the other semi-final and the two winners will lock horns in the final on Friday night.

Hastings secured third place in the league by virtue of a 3-1 win away to bottom club Greenwich Borough on the final day of the regular season on Saturday. That result kept them two points ahead of Ashford, who triumphed 5-0 at home to Haywards Heath.

Hastings and Ashford met at The Pilot Field in the league just seven days ago when Davide Rodari twice put Hastings ahead only for Ashford to hit back twice for a 2-2 draw.

Hastings goalkeeper Louis Rogers was sent-off late on in that match and is suspended for tonight’s game, so Charlie Horlock is in line to play, as he did at Greenwich on Saturday.

Hastings, incidentally, are top of the division’s form guide for the last eight matches with six wins and two draws. Ashford have won four, drawn two and lost two of their last eight games.

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 in the play-off places across those seven divisions, Hastings are 15th on points-per-game average with 1.944 (70 points from 36 matches) having moved up four places courtesy of beating Greenwich.

Horsham, incidentally, rank fourth on points-per-game and therefore will definitely be promoted if they win the play-offs, whereas Haywards Heath are third-from-bottom and find themselves in the bizarre situation of going into the play-offs knowing they cannot be promoted.

Bostik League South East Division top half final standings (all played 36 matches): 1 Cray Wanderers 82pts (+44 goal difference), 2 Horsham 74 (+35), 3 HASTINGS UNITED 70 (+33), 4 Ashford United 68 (+38), 5 Haywards Heath Town 63 (+13), 6 VCD Athletic 62 (+8), 7 Hythe Town 52 (+7), 8 Whyteleafe 49 (+8), 9 Phoenix Sports 49 (0), 10 Sevenoaks Town 47 (-5).