Hastings United Football Club lost its 100 percent home league record and had its leading scorer sent-off on a Saturday afternoon which started well but ended badly.
Chris Agutter’s side was beaten 3-2 by East Grinstead Town in the Bostik League South East Division and 24-goal forward Daniel Ajakaiye was shown a straight red card for violent conduct.
On a wet, breezy and misty afternoon at The Pilot Field, Hastings opened the scoring in the fifth minute. Youssouf Bamba played a wonderful defence-splitting pass to put Ajakaiye through on goal and he coolly rolled the ball past Grinstead goalkeeper Sheikh Ceesay.
See also: * Hastings United boss: I wouldn’t be surpised if Lovatt becomes Leeds United player
* 10-man Hastings United beaten by Whyteleafe
* Hastings United produce fine fightback to draw with Faversham Town
Mitchell Chapman shot just over from outside the area for Grinstead, who went from 1-0 down to 2-1 up with two goals in the space of five minutes.
They equalised from a slick counter-attack in the 17th minute. Orlando Smith played a fine diagonal ball through to Greg Cundle, who Hastings full-back Emmanuel Mensah couldn’t prevent from picking out the top corner with a splendid finish.
Hastings then fell behind. Jordan Johnson struck a terrific left-footed shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards after an attempted clearing kick by home goalkeeper Charlie Horlock went straight to a visiting player.
In a very open first half, Ajakaiye’s shot was saved by Ceesay at one end and seconds later Cundle’s well-struck effort at the other was repelled by Horlock.
A sweetly-struck left-footed shot from Hastings captain Sam Adams was beaten out by Ceesay, who got down low to save Antonio Walker’s follow-up strike. Cundle shot just wide of the far post at the other end.
Hastings got back on terms in the 37th minute. Jack Dixon dispossessed former Hastings player Callum Emptage in the away penalty box and struck a left-footed shot which deflected off Emptage against the inside of the post before trickling across the line.
After Ajakaiye’s shot from a Walker cutback deflected just wide towards the end of the first half, Grinstead grabbed what proved to be the winner in the eighth minute of the second period.
Smith’s shot from 25 yards took a wicked deflection, apparently off the face of team-mate Chapman, which completely wrong-footed Horlock and left him with no chance as the ball rolled into the opposite corner of the net.
Hastings enjoyed plenty of possession and territory thereafter, but didn’t really look like scoring and created few clearcut chances against a Grinstead side which performed commendably well.
Adams’ first-time volley from a Sam Beale corner was beaten out by Ceesay, who minutes later pushed aside a free kick over the wall from Hastings substitute Sam Cruttwell.
Hastings’ afternoon took a further turn for the worse in the 76th minute when Ajakaiye was dismissed following an off-the-ball incident in the centre circle which was spotted by the linesman.
Horlock made a superb double save, tipping the second effort against the post, to keep Hastings’ hopes alive. At the other end, Adams’ shot on the turn from inside the area went wide before substitute Kelvin Ogboe cut in from the left and whistled an effort beyond the far post.
Bamba went down at the end of a surging run into the away box only for the referee to award a free kick to Grinstead and show Bamba a yellow card. Seconds later the same player had a low shot saved by Ceesay.
Hastings, for whom centre-half Jack Tucker made an impressive debut after signing on loan from Gillingham, remain second in the table - 10 points behind leaders Cray Wanderers and just one ahead of third-placed Hythe Town.
Hastings: Horlock; Mensah (Ogboe 77), Howlett-Mundle, Tucker, Beale; Lovatt (Cruttwell 69), Dixon, Adams; Walker (Azeez 60), Ajakaiye, Bamba. Subs not used: Climpson, Pool. Attendance: 313.
Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 14-38 (+22 goal difference), 2 HASTINGS UNITED 14-28 (+14), 3 Hythe Town 14-27 (+9), 4 Whyteleafe 14-25 (+14), 5 Horsham 13-25 (+10), 6 Haywards Heath Town 15-25 (+7), 7 Ashford United 14-23 (+8), 8 Phoenix Sports 15-23 (+4), 9 VCD Athletic 13-22 (+3), 10 Sevenoaks Town 15-21 (0).