Hastings United Football Club saw its unbeaten start to the season end with defeat in a controversial East Sussex derby today (Monday).
United lost 2-1 at home to Lewes after the highly contentious sending-off of Ollie Rowe meant they played the final 55 minutes of the Bostik League Division One South match with 10 men.
On a glorious Bank Holiday afternoon at The Pilot Field, Lee Carey was restored to the starting line-up but Hastings were still without Simon Johnson so Jack Dixon, playing against the club he represented last term, again wore the captain’s armband.
Hastings got off to the worst possible start, falling behind in the very first minute. A free kick into the home box dropped to Bouwe Bosma, whose cross-shot from a tight angle to the left of goal made its way in via a touch off someone near the goal-line.
The home side was only behind for 10 minutes, though. Ansu Janneh burst into the Lewes area and went down as he was sandwiched by two defenders. Billy Medlock coolly sent away goalkeeper Chris Winterton the wrong way with the resulting penalty - his fourth goal in three games.
Rowe glanced a header wide of the far post from Carey’s free kick before his afternoon ended prematurely in the 36th minute. The central defender slid in for a tackle and seemed to win the ball, but to the dismay of the Hastings players and supporters, the referee showed him a straight red card.
Alex Malins headed into the side-netting at the far post from the resulting free kick and right at the end of the first half, Jamie Brotherton struck the base of the Hastings post with a left-foot shot after skilfully skipping past a defender in the box.
Early in the second half, Medlock - the sponsor’s man of the match - couldn’t quite pick out Janneh at the end of a brilliant run, while at the other end, Jonte Smith headed into the side-netting at the far post.
It was Smith who grabbed what proved to be the Lewes winner in the 57th minute. Reece Williams-Bowers found himself in acres of space on the away left and his low ball to the near post was neatly flicked home by Smith.
The referee continued to frustrate the home supporters - in a very decent crowd of 699 - with his decision-making, but it was Lewes’s turn to feel aggrieved in the 70th minute when Bosma felt he was bundled over in the box by Michael Aziaya only to be booked for diving.
Lewes, who certainly couldn’t be accused of rushing as the contest wore on, spurned a couple of good chances to extend their lead in the closing quarter-of-an-hour.
Liam MacDevitt headed Ronnie Conlon’s cross wide of the far post from an inviting position and substitute George Landais later put a close range effort over the top after Pelling parried a free kick low to his left.
Although Hastings didn’t come close to an equaliser, they never gave up and their effort certainly couldn’t be faulted. They played the last 10 minutes with eight fit players as Jack Harris and Tom Vickers hobbled on manfully with knocks picked up after all three substitutions had been made. Vickers, in fact, could barely walk off the pitch after the final whistle sounded.
Hastings: Pelling, Pritchard, Vickers, Carey (Black 55), Aziaya, Rowe, Rodari, Dixon, Medlock (Rodrigues-Barbosa 73), Janneh (Harris 66), Cruttwell. Subs not used: Gayler, Dullaway. Attendance: 699.