Hastings United back up to second after beating Sevenoaks Town
Hastings United Football Club climbed back up to second in the table on the back of a Boxing Day victory.
A tremendous 71st minute goal by substitute Sam Cruttwell gave Hastings a 1-0 win at home to Sevenoaks Town in the Bostik League South East Division.
The all-important goal came four minutes after Sevenoaks, who fielded two former Hastings forwards in Kenny Pogue and Frankie Sawyer, had a player sent-off.
See also: * Hastings United boss proud of players after win over VCD Athletic* Hastings United end losing run with vital comeback victory* Hastings United put a smile on the faces of children in hospitalHastings manager Chris Agutter made just one change to his starting XI from the 2-1 win over VCD Athletic 11 days previously.
Sonny Dullaway, back from a loan spell with Eastbourne Town, went straight into the side with Cruttwell joining the likes of Youssouf Bamba, Hassan Ibrahim and Lanre Azeez on a strong-looking substitutes’ bench.
On a lovely-looking Pilot Field pitch and in front of Hastings’ largest crowd for a home league game this season, the first half was rather uneventful with little in the way of goalscoring opportunities at either end.
Hastings dominated possession during the opening half-an-hour as Sevenoaks seemed content to get bodies behind the ball and make themselves difficult to play through.
The visitors restricted Hastings to efforts from outside the penalty area, the pick of which was a looping Jack Dixon shot from 25 yards which dropped just over - even if quite a few in the crowd thought it was in.
Sevenoaks began to impose themselves more after the half-hour mark and got on top for a while. They might have gone in front had Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock not produced a great save with his feet to deny Pogue following a low cross from the away right.
Hastings came close themselves shortly before the break, but Jordy Mongoy couldn’t get enough meat on his close range finish after Jack Tucker headed Jamie Fielding’s deep cross back across goal.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first and something of a stalemate was unfolding as both sides were solid enough at the back but lacked a creative spark in attack.
Agutter introduced Bamba and Cruttwell - two players who possess exactly the sort of creativity the game was crying out for - and things soon began to liven up.
Sevenoaks were reduced to 10 men just before the midway point in the half as Jack Miles was shown a straight red card for a wild challenge on Mongoy right in front of the home dugout.
Hastings were quick to capitalise as Cruttwell found the bottom corner with a great strike from 25 yards, sparking joyous celebrations among his team-mates.
The hosts were whiskers away from a second goal just three minutes later. Mongoy skipped past his man and rattled the face of the crossbar with a terrific shot from the edge of the box.
Sevenoaks tried to fight back, mainly through launching set-pieces into the Hastings area, and they came close when Josh Dorling volleyed over at the far post from Sam Crabb’s cross.
Luke Coleman later shot wide of the near post from the Sevenoaks right with Horlock out of his goal, but Hastings kept their first clean sheet since mid-November to complete a league double over their rivals from up the A21.
Hastings: Horlock; Howlett-Mundle, Climpson, Tucker; Fielding, Lovatt, Dixon, Walker (Cruttwell 65), Black; Dullaway (Bamba 59); Mongoy (Azeez 89). Subs not used: Ibrahim, Williams. Attendance: 557.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 17-42 (+21 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 17-34 (+15), 3 Whyteleafe 17-32 (+17), 4 Horsham 17-31 (+11), 5 Haywards Heath Town 17-31 (+10), 6 Ashford United 17-30 (+14), 7 Hythe Town 18-27 (+3), 8 Phoenix Sports 17-25 (+4), 9 VCD Athletic 16-25 (+4), 10 Three Bridges 17-23 (-3).